Michigan State University will prohibit students from hanging whiteboards on their dorm room doors beginning in the fall.
That's because some people write offensive messages on them, and the university wants to take an even more proactive approach to fighting harassment.
Apparently, instances of students writing hate speech on other students' whiteboards have become more frequent.
"The functionality of whiteboards used to outweigh the downsides," Kat Cooper, a university spokesperson, told The Detroit Free Press. "That's not happening anymore."
Maybe students don't need to write on each other's whiteboards—they can just text. But if that's the case, why not just let whiteboards be optional? If a student doesn't find them useful, or is worried about offensive messages, he can take his down.
No, no—they all must come down. There's too great a danger of someone saying something that someone else doesn't like, according to administrators. The Free Press's article details the numerous strategies MSU deploys to prevent such an occurrence:
The university also has an anti-discrimination policy.
Staff, including resident assistants inside buildings, file reports with MSU's Office of Institutional Equity when they come upon offensive language on whiteboards. That office investigates the issues when reported, through the people who write the offending words or images are rarely identified.
"Any student found in violation of the university's Anti-Discrimination Policy can face sanctions ranging from a warning to suspension," Ande Durojaiye, director of Office of Institutional Equity, wrote in an e-mail.
Here's a theory: maybe the behavior of MSU students isn't worsening—maybe people aren't suddenly more prone to engage in harassment. Rather, the university has defined harassment in increasingly subjective terms, and encouraged members of campus to report each other anonymously. Students aren't abusing the whiteboards: administrators are abusing the students' free expression rights.
In such an environment, I'm sure it makes more sense for MSU to simply shut everyone up.