Syracuse University Warns Students That They May Be Punished For Not Acting To Confront “Bias Motivated” Speech or Conduct

downloadThe law has always drawn a line between malfeasance and nonfeasance in considering unlawful acts, but Syracuse University is about to eradicate any real distinction in newly proposed rules by Professor Keith Alford, the university first diversity and inclusion officer. Under the new rules, students would be punished for simply witnessing “bias-motivated” incidents and “acts of hate.” The change was demanded by the #NotAgainSU which demanded expulsion for “individuals who witnessed the event or were present, but did not take part.”

Alford sent an email warning that students:

“The Code of Student Conduct has been revised, based on your input, to state that violations of the code that are bias-motivated—including conduct motivated by racism—will be punished more severely. The University also revised the code to make clear when bystanders and accomplices can be held accountable. The code will be prepared and distributed for students to sign in the fall.”

It does not go as far as the student group demanded in requiring expulsion, the rule also does not clearly state how silence or inaction will be judged in any given circumstance. It appears left up to the investigators. That uncertainty will prompt many to guarantee compliance by speaking or acting to avoid even the chance that they might be subjected to a highly damaging bias charge.  The school also warned that new cameras were being installed in “first-floor lounges,” “public areas,” and within residency hall elevators. Thus, any student who failed to immediately act would be observed and presumably at risk of being investigated or charged under the new rule.

Courts have long distinguished between malfeasancemisfeasance, and nonfeasance. In Bell v. Josselyn, 69 Mass. (3 Gray) 309, 311 (1855),  the court explained “Nonfeasance is the omission of an act which a person ought to do; misfeasance is the improper doing of an act which a person might lawfully do; and malfeasance is the doing of an act which a person ought not to do at all.”).  This distinction can be lost in some cases like corporate law or prosecutorial ethics where duties come with a duty to act in a particular fashion.

The concern raised by the Syracuse rule is that there remains controversies over vague universities standards on bias or race motivated violations including microaggressive language or actions.  Recently, a student writer at Syracuse was sacked for simply questioning the basis for claims of institutional racism. What is viewed as bias-motivated speech for some is viewed as political speech by others. The new rule would suggest that even students who do not agree that an incident is “bias-motivated” must still act to avoid scrutiny or punishment. Students could feel an obligation to prove that they are not racist by immediately and openly opposing such acts, lest they could be next to be accused.

Given the rising concerns over the erosion of free speech on our campuses, the punishing of students for nonfeasance for merely being witnesses or passive adds a new chilling element to speech. It is not just silencing those who now fear expressing their views on campus. It would now require speech and action to avoid possible discipline.  For those students, the new rule creates a “prove you are not a racist” (or biased) burden.

The Supreme Court has long treated compelled speech cases as some of the most serious denials of free speech. In West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943), Jehovah’s Witness family challenged the mandatory Pledge of Allegiance. The Supreme Court struck down the rule as a denial of the students’ “freedom of mind” by forcing them to “declare a belief.” It stressed:

“If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

The Court has repeatedly overturned compelled symbols or speech that “invade[] the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control.”  Minersville District v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586, 642 (1940).

While nonfeasance penalties may find acceptability in some legal areas, it has long been anathema to free speech.  While Syracuse should be commended for seeking to strengthen its policies and programs fighting racism and other forms of bias, it should rescind this form of nonfeasant misconduct.

105 thoughts on “Syracuse University Warns Students That They May Be Punished For Not Acting To Confront “Bias Motivated” Speech or Conduct”

  1. “While Syracuse should be commended for seeking to strengthen its policies and programs fighting racism and other forms of bias, it should rescind this form of nonfeasant misconduct.”
    Oh, please. Syracuse, as the tyrant it wants to be, shouldn’t be commended for anything. Racism, when it surfaces, typically is black railing against white. You know that type won’t be sanctioned or even criticized by the powers that be. So what we have is a control mechanism for liberals against white males that will be arbitrarily applied. Academia is circling the drain and for good reason.

  2. Sounds like a policy that will eventually result in violence. Perhaps to the point of someone being killed.

  3. To Lorenzo “White students can be called racist based on nothing but their skin colour”. When I lived in London I was the only person waiting to be served, first in the queue. When my turn came I went to the counter and the person behind me in the queue shot ahead of me – black. I remonstrated with her that I was next which she blatantly denied. The teller said we could both go to the back of the queue but changed his mind when the teller beside him pointed out I was first. I said fine, we’ll both go to the back of the queue, at which point she backed down. As I left the bank the rest of the queue, all white started muttering about how horrible that white woman was to that black lady.
    Agents provocateur will have a field day.

  4. Soon they’ll be requiring students returning to campus from their homes to inform on their parents who engage in counter-revolutionary acts or who dare to think unpopular (i.e., “racist” — after all, anything that is unpalatable must come from a point of white privilege) thoughts.

  5. I hope Syracuse U spelled out just HOW students are expected to react “properly” when observing these banned acts. Do they do as the protesting crowd did to the state legislator in Wisconsin who came upon their demonstration and decided to document it on his phone? That is punch him, knock him down and kick the crap out of him including causing a concussion. Is this what the school wants?

  6. Early on I argued that there was no clear path to conviction of the officers in the Floyd matter. The early evidence pointed to multiple other causes of death for which the officers were not responsible. Now a former DA has posted two articles citing more recent evidence that strongly supports my original position.

    This article includes an image of the neck technique for restraining delusional prisoners in the police manual. The police were following existing procedures.

    The article includes a link to another article by the same author which delves into other aspects of the case.

    Acquittal would be certain if an unbiased jury can be found.

    1. Again, the stated issue was never the issue. The issue has always been the one that used to be behind sumptuary laws:

      the police officer (a deplorable) is permitted to arrest and coerce a member of the aristocracy (per the black chauvinist viewpoint) or, is permitted to a villein of the New Class gentry.

      A second and more explicitly political element of this is that police forces exist and are collecting pools of the sort of people black chauvinists and gentry liberals despise. Because police forces are composed of practical men who are actually reality-based (and not posing as reality based), they are an obstacle for peddlers of social fiction. The abolish-the-police crowd wants an okupiers militia which enforces the narrative against designated social enemies.

      Basically, decent people in this country will be fighting for everything which provides a matrix for the conventional life we seek. The Democratic Party is a collecting pool of frankly wicked people enabled by feckless jerks.

    2. Film buffs are fond of the term ‘McGuffin’. Floyd’s death is the McGuffin in this plot.

      1. That actually sounds right. But for that the same uprising would likely have occurred using some other pretext. They tried to stop Trump with subverting the electors, with recounts, with investigations, with obstruction, with impeachment, with more threats of investigations, with leaks of confidential communications, with a stream of lies from the media and now they are trying insurrection.

        1. Well, yes, Democratic pols are complicit. A lot of the rabble’s activity is sorosphere rent-a-crowd. I’m sure these awful youths are on board with whatever they’re doing, getting people from here to there, providing them with equipment, and providing them with stipends is indubitably the work of various crooked non-profits operating through cut-outs.

          1. Absurd, they’re known as Bernie Bros. Trump actually encouraged Republicans to vote for Bernie in South Carolina’s open primary. And I distinctly remember when all the Trumper’s on this blog were singing “poor Bernie” along with Turley.

            And by the way, Absurd, you were totally wrong about the Post Office. Here’s Wikipedia to set the record straight: “The USPS traces its roots to 1775 during the Second Continental Congress, when Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first postmaster general. The Post Office Department was created in 1792 with the passage of the Postal Service Act”.

            See that: “1775”. And you claimed the Post Office ‘didn’t exist’ before the country’s founding. Make sure you know what you’re talking about before you attempt to ‘correct’ someone.

            1. Seth — One could be critical of Bernie’s being cheated without ever intending to support the old Commie.

              1. Young, that’s precisely the reason Democrats locked Bernie out: ‘He’s an old communist who incites radical kids’.

                1. That he does. But I think he was locked out to clear the field for Hillary. He’s probably lucky he didn’t commit suicide.

            2. “they’re known as Bernie Bros. Trump actually encouraged Republicans to vote for Bernie in South Carolina’s open primary.”

              That was Rush Limbaugh, not Trump. But Hillary still got the nomination, and then lost the election.

              So what does your beloved Party do this time around, Seth?

              They choose a 78 year old man with Dementia, who has to be kept hidden in a basement.

              Yet another clown show. But you probably like clowns.

  7. More examples of the famous leftist tolerance and understanding for which they are so well known.

    So that I understand correctly, I assume this means that I can be disciplined by the university for not being a leftist busybody and getting in someone’s face to confront “racism” and “intolerance”?

    Of course, “racism” and “intolerance” is the expression of any disagreement with a liberal on any of their pet social issues. Probably doesn’t mean I have to agree with a s@@tlibs view on a particular sports team. It probably does mean I can be disciplined for not having meltdown over someone’s MAGA hat.


    1. Well, it would be interesting to see whether SU alumni and alumnae could demand a refund.

      1. Cindy, I’d love to recognize the inherent genius of your post and hold it in a place of honor…, but its sheer mind numbing ignorance prevents me from doing that.

        1. That’s Cindy. Some of us just let her babble…in her little bubble, which some day will pop.

    1. Benson,

      Dinosaurs were ubiquitous 65 million years ago.

      Pan Gea – The continents were contiguous 175 million years ago.

      There was no oxygen 350 million years ago.

      There was no water 3.8 billion years ago.

      There was no earth 4.5 billion years ago.

      There was no universe 13.8 billion years ago.

    2. Greenland 🇬🇱, isn’t that where Rome is controlling from…??? Or was it 🇯🇵 Japan, or Switzerland 🇨🇭 🤔

      It is hard to tell… /jokes

  8. the bullying of all white and any conservative nonwhite students is so aggressive now, so widespread and systematic, that it is going to come to blows. and the sooner the better.

    white people who are on the receiving end of this oppression, or nonwhites who are too, are going to have to be ready for this to get physical, because they WILL NOT STOP

    we will have to show the very same physical courage and nerve and willingness to go to jail and be killed and die in this conflict that every oppressed ethnic group has shown when fighting for its own rights or freedom. Like the black civil rights protesters of the 60s who had to face attacks and jail. we have to be ready for that level of resistance and persecution. it is coming very soon in fact it is already here in the form of the BLM riots which are an organized attempt to harass and intimidate not only whites but law abiding, conservative type people of any race.

    we should not whine and cry over this. EVERY POLITICAL QUESTION OPERATES ALONG A CONTINUUM OF VIOLENCE. from none at all, across the gradient to total war.

    it was ever thus., The Enlightenment notion that we could resolve all our political issues peacefully was always a false hope.
    let this delusion expire and awaken to the reality of politics since the birth of cities at the beginning of history.

    1. And when it’s all over we’ll need the lawyers to piece it all together again. So you’re in a good position, Attorney Kurtz.

    2. “The influx of foreigners must, therefore, tend to produce a heterogeneous compound; to change and corrupt the national spirit; to complicate and confound public opinion; to introduce foreign propensities. In the composition of society, the harmony of the ingredients is all-important, and whatever tends to a discordant intermixture must have an injurious tendency.”

      – Alexander Hamilton

  9. This is the same as oil spills. Individual from the mid west walks by dock areas of Seattle and sees a film of something on the water. Fails to immediately report it., The fine is higher than the those who caused the spill. In this case and considerinig how it’s written I would not hire a student from that institution as they are no Constitutionalist and are substandard in US Civics and ethics. The act of observing is not a crime unless they are questioned as a witness and intentionally iie. Now in any garden variety fascist prone state that act is often considered worth an arrest. It’s called the Napoleonic System ini some places and straight up Fascism every where else.

    Imagine Motor Mouth Harris as one of the attorneys. “it’s a yes or no answer.” Either of which can be false. But when you choose people as a potential candidate for something else a false outcome under the ethics of decent people is quite probable. Depends on the street corner.

  10. So … students at Syracuse University who are bystanders or witnesses are required to divine the motivation of persons whom they witness doing (whatever)?? Quite an expectation about motive!

  11. “The University also revised the code to make clear when bystanders and accomplices can be held accountable.”

    I have a hunch they want bystanders to stand by silently when it benefits their agenda.

    How many good men are standing by now, saying nothing and doing nothing as these people exert more authoritarianism?

  12. So if a white student sees a bunch of black students harassing another white student and goes to help the white student, who do you think will be expelled?

    1. I assume it would depend upon if a reasonable person would consider the harassment racially motivated. Maybe the White student had just made a vile racial slur? Maybe he made a sexist comment or act? We don’t know all the circumstances. If he walked up and calmly said, “Hey, guys, what’s going on here?” in a friendly way so as to diffuse the tension, my guess is it would not turn into an incident.

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