Washington State to revise controversial course syllabi

Washington State University (WSU) Interim President Daniel J. Bernardo announced yesterday that several controversial syllabi, which outlawed the use of certain terms by students, would be reworked in order to protect students' free speech rights.

Campus Reform first reported on the syllabi, which came from courses covering " Women & Popular Culture," " Introduction to Comparative Ethnic Studies," and "Introduction to Multicultural Literature." The syllabi warned students that they could lose points—or even risk a failing grade—for using terms such as "male" or "female" to describe men and women, or the using the phrase "illegal alien."

"Over the weekend, we became aware that some faculty members, in the interest of fostering a constructive climate for discussion, included language in class syllabi that has been interpreted as abridging students’ free speech rights," Bernardo said. "We are working with these faculty members to clarify, and in some cases modify, course policies to ensure that students’ free speech rights are recognized and protected.

"No student will have points docked merely as a result of using terms that may be deemed offensive to some. Blanket restriction of the use of certain terms is not consistent with the values upon which this university is founded," he continued, noting that "[f]ree speech and a constructive climate for learning are not incompatible."

Bernardo also said that the university was asking all faculty members to review their course policies to ensure that they protect students' free speech rights.

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