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But speech may not be curtailed simply because it is offensive.” The proposal to create a free-speech advocate is partly a response to the investigation of faculty members by the university’s office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.The investigation was launched after the EOAA received complaints that the faculty members used an image of Mohammed from the cover of magazine in order to promote, ironically, a discussion of free speech.Last week the University of Minnesota Senate began to take up the issue of free speech on campus.No action was taken, but several students showed up to speak against a proposed “core principles” statement provisionally approved by the university’s top faculty committee.

The unfortunate effect, the proposed policy says, “is to create an imbalance by which protected speech is subordinated to other values.

The University of Chicago adopted a statement saying that “Except insofar as limitations on that freedom are necessary to the functioning of the university, the [university] fully respects and supports the freedom of all members of the university community ‘to discuss any problem that presents itself.’” The Chicago statement says that while ideas on college campuses will “naturally conflict,” it is “not the proper role of the university to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable or even deeply offensive.” And although Chicago “greatly values civility, and although all members of the university community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect,” it says, “concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas.” Princeton and Purdue Universities, among a number of other institutions, have adopted portions of that statement.

But Minnesota’s proposals, including the notion of a faculty watchdog for campus-based investigations involving matters of free expression, are the most comprehensive to date., “and detractors point to its potential to conflict with various other laws and concerns about educational access, campus safety and protecting students.

Yet the statements’ future is uncertain, given concerns — especially those from students — about free speech being “paramount” to other values.

At the same time, it’s unclear whether free expression can truly be protected without declaring it paramount.

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  1. Is it possible we are being too picky, looking for the fairy-tale prince or princess, and by doing so, limiting the possibilities of what God may know is best for us and which we have not yet considered?