TCC trustees approve policy on civility and respect; union questions its boundaries

Tallahassee Democrat by Byron Dobson

March 22, 2018

Tallahassee Community College’s Board of Trustees this week approved a new policy defining a culture of civility and mutual respect on campus.

But not everyone is buying in. Some say examples of what could constitute disrespectful or disruptive behavior oversteps the boundaries of free speech.

Those found in violation — from administrators to vendors — could face disciplinary action, up to getting fired.

The “Civility and Mutual Respect” policy is outlined in nearly four pages covering “a broad range of inappropriate, unacceptable behavior, from rude or obnoxious behavior on one end of the spectrum to threats of violence and acts of violence on the other,” the document reads.

It goes on to say, “this policy is not intended to deprive any person of his/her right to freedom of expression, but only to maintain, to the extent possible and reasonable, a safe, mutually respectful, harassment-free workplace and learning environment.”

At Monday’s meeting, the vote became an issue with two speakers who challenged wording in the policy, saying it was broad and could unfairly be left in the hands of the administration to determine what encompasses sarcasm, degrading or demeaning speech.

Martin Balinsky, a faculty member and vice president of United Faculty of Florida’s TCC chapter, said portions of the policy attacks free speech.

“My objection is with the subjective language relating to such issues as perceived sarcasm, perceived arrogance, perceived disrespect, perceived degradation, and perceived intention to humiliate,” Balinsky said, lifting from the policy’s list of behaviors that could lead disciplinary action.

Balinsky said, “such onerous and chilling prohibitions based on subjective interpretation are in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

He also told trustees the language could be perceived as a threat to the faculty union, which is currently negotiating its first contract with the college.[READ MORE]

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