University Council members yesterday came down harshly on President Sheldon Hackney's revision of the University's racial harassment policy, saying that the revisions would leave doors open for racial harassment and intimidation. But the harassment policy was not the only issue that spurred heated discussion at this year's first meeting of the president's advisory body. Members sparred over open expression procedures during former President Ronald Reagan's May address and engaged in an unexpectedly intense exchange over the Academic Integrity Code. Discussion of the racial harassment code was decidedly one-sided, as numerous students and a pair of faculty members criticized Hackney's narrowing the policy and said the revision leaves the burden of proof on the victim. Members were unable to wrap up discussion of policy in the 25 minutes alloted and will continue debate at next month's meeting. History Professor Alan Kors and Physics Professor Michael Cohen -- both of whom had vocally supported a narrowing but no longer sit on the Council -- were not at the meeting, leaving Hackney to fend for himself for most of the discussion. Only City Planning Professor Anthony Tomazinis voiced support for adopting the narrow policy in the interest of academic freedom. Students and faculty opposing the revisions said the policy's narrowed definition left too much latitude to those who make harassing remarks. "The level of incivility is already high enough as to seriously compromise the quality of education for minority students," Finance Professor Emeritus Jean Crockett said, drawing applause from fellow Council members and the audience. Most criticism centered on the policy's wording. Opponents said the provision requiring offenders' intentions to be considered before acts are deemed harassing was "callous and insensitive" because the victim is left to provide the proof. They also said it is nearly impossible to show intentions. Long-time graduate student activist Wayne Glasker also found fault with the "fighting words" requirement in the policy, saying that the phrase was so vague that its interpretation could be dangerously narrow. "Is it only fighting words if I decide to slap someone upside the head for calling me an ex-slave?" Glasker asked. And Graduate and Professional Student Assembly Vice Chairperson Elizabeth Hunt said that the phrase was biased against females because "women are never expected to haul off and slug someone." Hackney defended the revisions throughout the debate, stressing that open expression must take priority and that the broader rules against harassment placed too many restraints on free speech. And towards the end of the debate, Tomazinis made an impassioned plea for keeping the narrow definition, which he said was essential to academic freedom. "We must feel free to question everything," Tomazinis said. "For God's sake, don't stop the conversation because you feel hurt." Hackney said after the meeting that he was not surprised that most members criticized the revision, but added that "there is much more support for it on campus. They are just not on Council." Outside the meeting, the Progressive Student Alliance held a small silent protest of the revisions and hung up signs on windows. The University's handling of open expression procedures at Reagan's Peek Week address, placed on the agenda by GAPSA, raised less heated exchanges. Members officially asked the Open Expression Committee to investigate the incident in which the Secret Service or the Philadelphia Police Dignitary Protection unit ejected three students from the speech for carrying protest placards inside the Convention Center. Provost Michael Aiken offered to have the oversight committee examining the University's judicial system try to make the Open Expression Guidelines more effective and consistent when controversial speakers come to campus. Numerous Council members brought up various speakers who have come to campus -- including then-President Gerald Ford, former United Nations Ambassador Jean Kirkpatrick and Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan -- creating controversy over open expression guidelines. GAPSA Chairperson Susan Garfinkel withdrew a motion requesting a formal apology for the incident and compensation for legal fees incurred as a result of the incident, saying she would take it up again in next month's Council Steering Committee meeting since the alloted time was running out. During a discussion of revisions to the Academic Integrity Code, members engaged in an unexpectedly heated exchange when GAPSA Vice Chairperson Michael Goldstein questioned why the code was aimed only at students. Goldstein asserted that numerous faculty members commit violations of the code, and questioned why the policy did not apply to them as well. After Provost Aiken explained that there was a separate policy for faculty members, Professor Tomazinis became incensed by Goldstein's statement that faculty regularly break codes. "Three times you said that the faculty behaves very dishonestly very frequently," Tomazinis said, adding that unless Goldstein had specific examples of violations, "we don't permit that statement to be said here." "To me it is absolutely intolerable to have around this table," the city planning professor said.Comments powered by Disqus
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