Staff Editorial: Blog censorship by NHMCCD is an unnecessary move
Students at the North Harris Montgomery Community College District received a triumphant victory for their First Amendment rights over the weekend. The Houston Chronicle reported Thursday that campus officials blocked a blog that heavily criticized NHMCCD Chancellor Richard Carpenter – a move that sparked a local citizen to take action in supporting the student’s free speech rights.
Local citizen Richard C. McDuffee, 58, filed suit against the community college district after access to richardcarpenterwatch.blogspot.com was blocked. The blog contains allegations of racism, corruption, purposeful intimidation and incompetence against Carpenter.
College administrators cited safety and security reasons for blocking access to the Web site. And while death threats that were made in comments are legitimate concerns, the full-blown policy to block access is a ridiculous move.
The college’s action was not only bad politics but a bad attempt in trying to detract attention to the blog: readership nearly doubled.
The free exchange of ideas is critical for any college campus, even if there are some who won’t agree with the statements. While seditious and libelous comments should be discarded, there’s always a proper avenue to vent such frustrations and be critical against an administration head – whether it’s a community blog or a campus newspaper.
Carpenter was the chancellor of the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas before arriving at NHMCCD. He came to the position with 20 years of experience, after resigning at the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas.
At NHMCCD, Carpenter received praise for reorganizing the administrative staff, working to expand the college’s workforce program and providing online courses for off-campus students. Carpenter, however, was chided for the college’s flawed information technology system, his lack of presence at the satellite campuses and the weak execution of policies for the college. NHMCCD soon fixed the error of its censoring ways, fortunately.
The blog became accessible over the weekend and McDuffee dropped the lawsuit against the college. And while this suit was never played out in court, the college’s action for the blog’s access again can be seen as a veiled attempt of penance. If the college felt it didn’t do anything wrong, then the quick reversal of policy seems contradictory.
Free speech rights on college campus are a delicate situation that any institute of higher education should tread carefully with, but security rights end where free speech rights begin.