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Published: Sunday, 5/18/2008

Free speech struggles at university

University of Toledo employee Crystal Dixon has a First Amendment right to give her opinion about the gay lifestyle. She did not speak for the University of Toledo or as a member of the UT administration. It was a violation of her First Amendment rights for UT President Lloyd Jacobs to terminate her employment. The Jacobs decision was typical of his reactionary management style.

Ms. Dixon's case is reminiscent of 1917, when Professor Scott Nearing, dean of the UT college of arts & sciences, was fired for writing and speaking against World War I. Nearing was a leading scholar and a peace activist targeted by the Woodrow Wilson administration. Wilson was a racist and a bigot who segregated federal employees in 1914. More than 1,900 people were prosecuted for speaking out against Wilson's policies. More than 900, including Eugene Debs, were sent to prison. The ACLU was founded in response to Wilson's anti-First Amendment policies.

Meanwhile, the First Amendment has continued to struggle at UT. In 1978, an honorary degree was proposed for Nearing (then in his 90s), but was opposed by UT trustees - unforgiving after 60 years. Throughout the 1970s, UT students and others were arrested for distributing political literature on campus. In the 1980s, controversial speakers were blocked or harassed. In the 1990s, the Horton administration opposed a student free speech bulletin board. Now, we have censorship by the Jacobs administration.

We must defend everyone's right to speak, including Crystal Dixon and those who agree or disagree with her. It is this right of free speech that fosters and supports many other freedoms including the First Amendment right of association and the right to practice a gay lifestyle or not.

Donald K. Wedding, Sr.

Wedgewood Court

Editor's note: The writer has been a UT faculty member for 41 years.

I have read the stories regarding the Crystal Dixon controversy, pertaining to her response in the Toledo Free Press to Editor-in-Chief Michael Miller's April 6 column, "Gay rights and wrongs." I believe she says that her First Amendment rights have been violated.

I believe she has every right to express her opinion, based on her beliefs and personal convictions. However, she may respond to any article written by anyone as long as she states that she's doing it as Crystal Dixon, resident of Toledo, or wherever she may live. She may not state that her opinion is from Crystal Dixon, associate vice president for human resources, University of Toledo. Then she is speaking as a representative of the University of Toledo and may not contradict the stated policies of said university for which she is employed.

This distinction has not, from what I have read and heard, been brought to the forefront so bluntly. The mistake was her labeling herself as an employee of the university and not a private citizen. Her First Amendment rights were not violated because she spoke as a representative of the university and not as a private citizen. A simple mistake with dire consequences.

George G. Nenno

Oregon

Something tells me that if a Toledo company with an official policy of denying same-sex spousal health coverage fired or suspended someone for writing a letter on their own time suggesting that homosexuals are born the way they are, it wouldn't matter that the company offered her a different position before taking their partisan ideological discrimination to the next level.

Robert Moon

Cincinnati

The Democrats and liberals have shown their true colors twice in recent weeks and neither sight is very pretty.

First, the Ohio Democratic Party's withdrawal of its 2006 endorsement of Attorney General Marc Dann was just about the most hypocritical and blatantly self-serving maneuver ever pulled by a political party. People don't change that dramatically. Mr. Dann is exactly the same person he was when the party endorsed him and his platform of ethics in 2006. He just got caught acting like the real Marc Dann in 2008.

But now the party is happy to distance itself from him as if he has "changed." Not at all; he simply conducted himself like many liberal politicians but was foolish enough to get caught and embarrass the party. I do not support what he did in any manner, but his party's action - which has no real effect on anyone or anything at this time - is equally disgusting.

Second, the disciplinary action taken against Crystal Dixon by the University of Toledo should wave a red flag to everyone. Universities pride themselves on being the bastions of liberal-think in our country. They are places where discussion and free thinking are encouraged. That is, unless your views run contrary to the "official" liberal view of the world. In that case you will be criticized, censured, and dismissed.

Ms. Dixon was not speaking officially for the university but expressing her views. But since Dr. Lloyd Jacobs felt that her views might not be liberal enough to support UT's "official" policy, she was signed out.

These are the people who want to lead the country on the path of "change" and who are educating the leaders of tomorrow? Tell me another scary bedtime story.

Rich Iott

Monclova Township

It doesn't surprise me that the University of Toledo official was fired for writing an intolerant column in a public forum, or that students at Anthony Wayne High School wearing politically charged T-shirts were sent home to change or face more severe disciplinary measures.

These two have learned what is already supported by various courts of law. Free speech is not guaranteed at your place of employment, and neither is it guaranteed at a public or a private school.

I'm not a lawyer, but I think the thinking is that if it is disruptive to the business at hand, it is not permitted.

Sid S. Davisson

Fremont

Whoever would have thought that Toledo would be one of the epicenters of an assault on free speech and free thought in this nation? But the dismissal of University of Toledo administrator Crystal Dixon has made Toledo just that.

Since when is expressing an opinion as a private citizen - an opinion shared by millions in this country and backed by a mountain of intellectual evidence - a reason for a state-supported institution to discriminate against that employee and fire her? This is the kind of thing one would expect in China or the old Soviet Union.

When UT President Lloyd Jacobs said her comments were not consistent with the "values" of the university, he apparently meant free speech and a religious point of view were not compatible with the values of the university. Employees, even on their free time, no longer can express a point of view that disagrees with the "values" of the university.

Here's hoping Ms. Dixon will file a lawsuit against the university. A state-supported university should have no right to demand an employee, acting as a private citizen, conform to its point of view and give up his or her right to free speech. Nor should any employee at a state-supported university be discriminated against for his or her religious views expressed outside the workplace.

Here's also hoping Christian high school students and parents consider another university when seeking a college education. Those with religious views being suppressed by a university should seek a college education elsewhere.

Kirk Zimpfer

Muncie, Ind.

Regarding The Blade's May 10 publication of a guest editorial from the Boston Globe: If George Orwell was correct when he asserted in his 1946 essay, "Politics and the English Language," that our language affects our thinking and our living, then the degradation of our language through "texting" may be potentially more serious than frivolous.

Bob Versteeg

Bowling Green



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