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January 25, 2005

Academic freedom . . . from common sense

Yes, I'm from Oregon and I fully recognize that not every Oregon resident is a barking moonbat. Whoever directed a University of Oregon employee to remove the Support the Troops yellow ribbon from his work vehicle meets that definition however. Here's the scoop, via Michelle Malkin who credits Kevin McCollough.

A yellow ribbon sticker that says "Support The Troops" has created a big stir at the University of Oregon.

A day after a campus employee was told to remove the sticker from his maintenance vehicle -- people on campus are reacting.

It all started after a university employee complained.

Some think the university may have gone too far. . .

Well, yes. Supporting troops has nothing to do with politics. It's something we all should do. However, the University responded with this statement by President Dave Frohnmeyer regarding decals on state-owned vehicles. :

The University has many alumni, students and staff serving in the military in Iraq and other places. Of course, we support them and have great concern for their well being, as we do for all U.S. troops.

Some of you may have followed media coverage over the weekend regarding removal of a decal from a state vehicle at the University of Oregon. Decisions about whether employees may or may not put stickers or magnets on state-owned vehicles have nothing to do with the messages. The fact is state vehicles may not have any personal messages affixed to them.

This distinction between a state vehicle and a personal vehicle is very important. Government vehicles in this state have never been allowed to exhibit items of personal expression. State employees are free to use their personal vehicles for statements of all types on university campuses and elsewhere.

Because the university is a state agency, I cannot make distinctions or allowances on this matter, regardless of the cause or the breadth of its support. Whether the message is "Support Our Troops," "Fund Cancer Research" or "Support Tsunami Relief," employees may not place personal stickers or magnets on state-owned vehicles.

So should this decision also be interpreted to mean that the University should not allow any personal stickers, magnets, or any other persuasive material on any state-owned property? I think so. This would include bulletin boards, office doors, or other state property and I look forward to my next trip to Eugene when I'll wander through a few halls of higher learning making sure that President Frohnmeyer's logic is carried through to the appropriate conclusion. I'll be back. And if anyone has pictures in the meantime, feel free to send them along to me. I'll be happy to post 'em.

In the meantime, I've sent this note to the University of Oregon President and Provost. I'll post any response I receive - form letter or not.

Dear President Frohnmeyer and Provost Mosely; I am the mother of a United States Marine who is currently serving in Iraq. My son, Lance Corporal Shane Conrad, spent his 21st birthday last Friday near the Syrian border, protecting innocent Iraqi citizens who want nothing more than to live without fear - rights that we enjoy in a democratic society. He could have gone to any college or university in the state of Oregon and I would have happily paid his tuition. He chose instead to delay his formal college education so that he could help ensure, as generations of Marines have, the freedom of your students to study as they choose and the freedom of college employees to complain about a non-partisan message of troop support affixed to a state vehicle. How do you think most of your students spend their 21st birthdays? I imagine that their goals for reaching that magical age of majority are a bit different than my son and his fellow Marines - to simply stay alive and continue protecting the lives of the innocents living in that Syrian border town. My son would lay down his life to protect you and your students. I'm sorry that you feel that a simple expression of support for his dedication is proscribed by Oregon Department of Administrative Services, Fleet Administration Operating Policies Section 107103-5. And, it's a damn good thing that my son's mother (me) does not get to choose who he protects and defends. University of Oregon employees would rank fairly low on my list. Does this prohibition against personal opinions on state vehicles extend to other state property? For example, are employees and faculty allowed to post statements of personal belief on bulletin boards, office doors, or other areas paid for with public funds? I will be very interested in your reply.

Deb Conrad
Proud Marine Mom

Posted by Deb at January 25, 2005 12:05 AM

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Hi Deb,
Hugh Hewitt's radio program was discussing this yesterday, Jan. 24, 2005. He encouraged all bloggers to keep this alive. I posted an article about this topic under the name: Bloggers Unite: Univ. of Oregon BANS Support of Troops. We took down Dan Rather, what's a little college elitist president? Hehehe. Don't you worry. There is change in the winds of time. He is on the wrong side of history. Have a great day now.

Posted by: Rosemary at January 25, 2005 10:11 PM

I wonder if this gentleman who says state owned vehicles can't have personal messages on them has ever seen police cars with black flags tied to the antenae in response to a police officers death. I would argue that the person driving the car (a police officer) is stating a personal message (grief over the death of a fellow officer) and that this is no different then the ribbons (support over troop members who are dying for us). Sue Timmons Marine wife for 26 years

Posted by: Sue Timmons at January 26, 2005 10:48 AM

Okay, I am not a lawyer, but one of my few friends is. According to how this law will most likely be interpreted, IF the yellow ribbon is allowed to be on the state-owned vehicle THEN that would give another person the right to put a 'Bring them Home NOW!!! This war is Wrong!' sign on a state-owned vehicle. In the best interests of the American people, and in consideration of the United States Constitution, the ribbon must be allowed to stay or it must not, and if the former is granted the consequences of such an action may cause an interference in the state's activities and goals for this institution. Therefore, it is (my friends judgement--and I will take his word for it) that the college president acted correctly.

And to the prophetic that posted the first comment--I do not believe you.


Posted by: Mattson at January 26, 2005 11:24 PM

Disclaimer: in any situation where it is remotely reasonable to do so, I loathe PC bullshit with every fiber of my being.

That said, MATTSON has it, unless there's more detail of which I'm unaware. He's right, there's a simple chain of reasoning that precludes the state from allowing this. Consider the following:

1.) State allows "Support the troops" stickers
2.) Employee puts on "Support stop-smoking programs" (fill in with favorite cause), state cites code against stickers, employee points to "support the troops" sticker on adjacent car, state has to drop it.
3.) Other employee puts on "Support Planned Parenthood" (fill in with favorite "controversial" cause), repeat step 2.
4.) Yet another employee puts on Confederate flag, or other *very* controversial sticker/magnet/what-have-you. State has run out of excuses to prohibit pretty much anything.
5.) Asshat sues employee, school, and entire state Dept. of Education for creating a "hostile environment", taxpayers are out 10 mil. Everybody loses, except asshat. Unless universe has some sense of justice, in which case asshat gets very, very painful type of cancer.

OK, the details may change, but the fact is, nowadays you really have to be careful with letting people express opinions in "official" forums. It's not just the fact that taxpayer/tuition-payer money paid for it, it's that it's in the public eye. The bulletin board outside the Sociology professor's office probably has pictures of Bush Photoshopped to look like a monkey, because the university can make some kind of claim about "the professor's viewpoints not necessarily representing our own" but that would be unacceptable (or hard to explain away) on the bulletin board outside the Dean's office.

While I personally would support anybody's right to express opinions anywhere, I'm a realist and can see that if I'm an employer, I want to cover myself as much as possible against litigous assholes.

Posted by: James at January 27, 2005 03:22 PM

Most workplaces both in the public and private sector have such rules so as to avoid lawsuits...and so they won't have to constantly play referee for two opposing sides while on the job.

Unfortunately, I've seen such incidents happen from the other side, too. For six years, I worked at a Medford, Oregon TV station and there was an employee there who was wearing a button that was for an alleged "liberal" cause, and a conservative person complained so the rule was made that NO ONE could wear any kind of buttons of any sort that might imply "politics" to someone else.

As a former Marine who also happens to also be politically liberal, I just think it's a shame that people can't just let each other have their own opinion in general so that such incidents don't keep occurring. Seems to me I served my country so that people could continue to have freedom of speech.

I can understand your feelings, but I can also understand why U of O asked the person to remove the bumper sticker off of a university owned vehicle. In light of the fact that a complaint was lodged that could possibly lead to other problems, I feel their action was appropriate. Now if they had asked them to remove it from their own POV, then THAT, in my opinion, would've been out of line.

Posted by: Former Marine in Corvallis at January 28, 2005 06:01 AM

My turn. I have read all comments above and have read and listened to media commentary regarding the issue. Both sides have substantial data to support their view. Unfortunately, I feel people are missing the point. We are all Americans, free, and protected by our soldiers and Marines. Supporting our troops is just a way to voice that fact. It is not a political issue, it is Patriotism. And, since my son and the sons and daughters of my Marine family are fighting daily to secure our freedom I will continue to speak about and display signs of support, while on the job and off. If we continue to support people who raise issues that patriotism is wrong we will soon be mandated to discontinue the flying of our American flag on government property. Are you ready for that fight?

Posted by: Connie at January 29, 2005 05:00 PM

Connie - well put!!!

Posted by: teri melum at January 30, 2005 05:22 PM

Connie--It is this very war that prevents the ribbon from staying on a state-owned vehicle. Too many of the educated are deeply against the war and can use solid facts and pictures to substantiate their opinions. To permit the ribbon on a state-owned vehicle is to give those against it an actionable cause. Do not go there. Be thankful that most of the world of Academia is polite enough to be fairly soft-spoken about the war. Push this issue down their throats and not only will you wake the Dragon, but with their resources pulled the war will be exposed. Trust me, the government doesn't want to piss off higher education. There is too much money in it for one, and this political issue will interfere with that money making. You think Marines are tough? Try an army of lawyers, scholars, and then students. Doesnt' anybody remember Kent?

In other words, try to militarize the state with propaganda, then the threat of the Draft will become very real. In that case the war will be over so quick that the death toll will never come close to 58,000.

You are burning yourself, and that's okay, so long as you don't try to light a fire underneath those people who don't want nothing to do with this. I can see right now the reaction of the people. The army is the people, you may not know that Connie, but I think the government knows that only too well...


Posted by: Mattson at January 30, 2005 10:08 PM

Mattson, Thank you for sharing your opinion. And, your welcome for the freedom to do so, that so many have fought to give you, including my son. I live in the world of academia and surround myself daily with those who are definitely not soft-spoken when it comes to politics and opinions. As an educated woman in todays higher education arena it continues to amaze me that people are so easily swayed by media propoganda and threatened by a minority voice, even the educated. Anyone can produce pictures and use words to sound like facts.

I invite you to listen to those who know the facts. Our Marines and soldiers are very knowledgeable on the true facts. They are living them and seeing the progress that is being made in a country that was so brutaly oppressed. It is easy to stand in our country where freedom is so easily taken for granted and voice opinions.

As for war, its never the first choice and especially for a mother of a US Marine. But, as long as there are US Marines and soldiers walking the line for our freedom of speech, and protecting our lives I will proudly support them. And, even in the vast populus of educated people and the world of academia I find the majoriaty of Americans support our troops, no matter what their personal political views are.

So, the next time you share your political views, remember its my son who is dodging bullets to protect your backside, and to make sure you have the freedom to do so. And, he does it all knowing that there are people who could care less that he is willing to sacrifice his life for theirs. So, if I've lite a fire, so be it, that was my entire goal. May the flames continue to burn in support of our Marines and soldiers who are in harms way.

Posted by: Connie at January 31, 2005 12:23 PM

First, may I say that I am pleased that we live in a country where a guy like me can express unpopular viewpoints. I read an article today that said too many highschool kids do not fully understand their first ammendment rights.

As far as the war in Iraq. I am not too sure that this fight actually helps the American people too much. For example, my wife and I were planning a trip somewhere overseas but were cautioned that almost every European nation feels a great disdain for Americans nowadays. I'm not talking about just the French either! I read an article about a lady that was jumped on a double-decker bus for being an American tourist in London.

Look, I don't hate the Marines. I think the Marines are great. In fact, I am going to try and join after school this summer. I have a feeling, however, that considering my adventurous past I will only be allowed in the Army. Anyways, there is a lot of contraversy out there about this war. Needless to say, the military does not have the same support that it did during WWII. In fact, this war may even be more dangerous for the American people than Vietnam because in 'Nam the Vietnamese just wanted us out so they could unify their country. Here in Iraq, these people not only want us out, they want to take the fighting over to us.

It is going to be a great challenge to cure the bad blood between the United States and the rest of the world. We have a lot of explaining to do. Look at it this way, let's say that Saddam was Iraq's 'Dad.' Okay? So, if you get a beating from your Dad, then you got a beating from your Dad. But imagine if some stranger comes up to your Dad and locks him up and then begins to beat you. Now, that stranger is not your Dad, even if he is trying to 'help' you. So, you can see where that will lead.

I am glad that you have good support from the world of Academia. But I sense that just saying you support the troops can be something of a cop out in many ways. Again, I look to the students. I can't say that the students that I observe are by any means a cross-section of society, but there must be some validity found within them, especially since we are dealing with upwards of 40,000 of these kids. Sure, we have the ROTC kids. I talk to them often. Many are pursuing military careers out of a sense of family tradition, and in fact support the war--perhaps even too much--when I hear them say things like, "Nuke em! Nuke all the bastards to Hell!" That makes me a little nervous, but I must remember that they are still young. I have a friend who was just pinned and now is working with the patriot missles in Texas. He is a very motivated fellow, but again, I can't seem to get him to take regard of the Iraqi civillians. His response is, "If they get killed, then it is their fault for getting in the way." But I don't believe that.

In closing, and to sum up, I don't believe that the United States government has sent the military to Iraq in order to protect the American people. There is no way, it is too clear that our integrity as a nation has been damaged due to this war. I do support the troops also in the sense that I truly pity their lot. I know, I know, they don't need my damn pity--yet...

Look, kids from this war are already showing up in homeless shelters. There are youngsters so maimed that they will never lead productive lives. The cost of this war does not match the productivity. Anyone with a brain knows that the Iraqi elections are nothing more than a horse and pony show. Look at the fact that four more Marines died today even after the elections 'defeated the terrorists.'

No, I can't lie to myself, and I won't lie to you because you are not the enemy, even if you hate me with all of your guts. I will lie to the enemy all day long and then some, so count yourself lucky.

If this war is going to come to an end then we need mature leadership that is concerned with the best interests of all people. The grunts are great: God Bless them all. If I ever become a powerful citizen, not only will I make special allowances to the enlisted veterans, but I will fight for their special rights trying to make the VA a better place. If I am an employer one day, I will always look to hire veterans over civillians, and I will always give veterans extra chances when they have problems.

But not the top leadership in this country--I have nothing for them. I am very disapointed in them--they have led us to a cliff,below are jagged rocks, and I see people jumping off with smiles on their faces.

Keep America Free,

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