Thursday, September 25, 2008

What's up with the University of Illinois?

From yesterday's Inside Higher Ed:
Sporting an Obama or McCain button? Driving a car with one of the campaigns’ bumper stickers? You might need to be careful on University of Illinois campuses.

The university system’s ethics office sent a notice to all employees, including faculty members, telling them that they could not wear political buttons on campus or feature bumper stickers on cars parked in campus lots unless the messages on those buttons and stickers were strictly nonpartisan. In addition, professors were told that they could not attend political rallies on campuses if those rallies express support for a candidate or political party.
Whoa. Talk about chilling--and, as far as I can tell, a pretty poorly conceived policy. Evidently it's not a problem if a U of I employee wears apparel to work emblazoned with a "Nike" logo, despite the company's well-documented exploitation of laborers in developing countries. How is that not a political endorsement, albeit of a somewhat indirect kind? And were I a professor not at Indiana but at Illinois, what if I wanted to teach students about rhetorics of political expression and propaganda using campaign stickers and bumper stickers? Would that be an acceptable use of these materials? And would I need to bring them onto campus appropriately shrouded so as not to suggest any partisanship?

Sigh. You get the point. The complete story is available here.

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