Civil Liberties

At UC-Davis, Students Can't Register Until They Concede It's Wrong to Say 'I'd Hit That'


The University of California, Davis, requires students to complete an online activity in which they must identify certain words and phrases as "problematic" before they register for classes. Students are prompted to match "I'd hit that," "I raped that exam," "bitch," "pimp," and "slut" with the correct explanation for why each term should not be uttered.

The correct answer for "I'd hit that" is, "Expression used to indicate interest in having sex with the subject of the statement. This phrase indicates an inherent connection between sex and a physically violent act." Here is a screenshot of the quiz, courtesy of the Foundation for Individual Rights:

FIRE informed the university that the activity violates students' First Amendment rights, since it requires them to affirm that these words are indeed problematic. FIRE's Susan Kruth explains:

There is no option for students to argue that the phases aren't problematic, or to simply acknowledge that the phrases are considered problematic by many. Students must agree that they are problematic.

As FIRE notes in our letter:

"While UC Davis is free to urge students to consider the broader social and political implications of their speech, the university cannot, consistent with students' right to be free from compelled speech, require its students to adopt certain viewpoints or affirm that particular types of constitutionally protected speech are objectionable as a condition of their ability to register for classes at the university."

University administrators maintain the activity is consistent with First Amendment principles because students are still permitted to register even if they get all the questions wrong. But this is merely akin to letting students choose from a range of compelled viewpoints—they are still compelled to express one of those viewpoints. The College Fix's Greg Piper summarizes the university's position as, "you can pick your god as long as you pray."

Additionally, I would heartily dispute that merely using the word "bitch" promotes violence. But I would be forced to change my mind if I tried to register for classes at UC-Davis.