COSO Regulations of Student Publications Inhibit Rights to Free Speech

by David G. Becker | 5/8/98 5:00am

To the Editor:

It's distressing to learn that the College Committee on Student Organizations is considering rules for student publications which, if implemented, would cast a dark shadow over Dartmouth students' rights of free expression. The proposed rules would impose greater restrictions on Dartmouth student publications than those to which many high school publications are subject.

They cannot be justified in an institution of higher learning whose mission is preparing people for roles of service and leadership in a free society.

I have no idea whether this misguided attempt to "purify" student expression was motivated by political correctness, an exaggerated concern for a few exceptionally fragile egos or legal considerations. It seems evident, however, that even if these last are relevant, the College's concerns can be met by far less intrusive regulations, such as requiring publications to keep internal records of the authors of anonymous articles and, perhaps, to print disclaimers stating that the views expressed are solely those of the writers and editors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the College, its officers or faculty or other students.

Any person or group feeling that it has been egregiously insulted or held up to ridicule has recourse to legal process; libelous writing is not legally protected.

Otherwise, a decent respect for our freedoms demands a willingness to live and let live, not a set of rules more appropriate to the publications of an elementary school.