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Free campus speech hearing

Amanda Gailey, an associate professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, addresses the Education Committee in January during a hearing on a bill that would require the NU Board of Regents to create a special committee charged with making an annual report regarding “barriers to or incidents of disruption” to free speech on campus.

The Legislature's trio of senators criticizing the University of Nebraska have surfaced again. Their new issue is an additional expression of free speech and personal liberty by faculty.

Sens. Steve Halloran, Steve Erdman and Tom Brewer should realize NU's president and UNL's chancellor have no more of a leash on the private actions of faculty than either the speaker or governor have on senators.

Sorry to disappoint, but there's no evidence of a machine to crank out radicals on any NU campus. It's likely the frequency of so-called radical behavior is no more frequent at universities than other professional communities of similar size, though there may be more suppression elsewhere.

But if faculty exceed societal norms during non-university behavior, any professional reviews are preceded by private legal actions. One can hope the trio will be as quick to commend positive news about NU and its faculty.

Sen. Brewer is personally acquainted with the positive actions of a College of Journalism and Mass Communications faculty member who led his class on an investigative project to Whiteclay that helped inform Nebraskans of the need for action. The first steps have already been taken in this strong faculty-student lesson for public service.

Rather than pouncing on some isolated negative faculty behavior in the news, the trio could easily arrange to get acquainted with a broad cross-section of faculty, students and administrators in their classrooms, laboratories and offices.

Too few public servants avail themselves of that privilege. Visitors can learn of the impact of NU in business, engineering, cutting-edge instruction and contributions to increased quality and quantity of the world's food supply. The late regent Kermit Hansen visited more than 200 classes on all campuses, plus the district research and extension centers.

Following comprehensive visits, the trio could speak of NU with greater authority. Try it — you'll like it.

Lavon Sumption, Lincoln

UNL professor emeritus

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