By Carter Ottele

Following Grinnell College’s claim that it “can’t afford” free speech, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a statement on Thursday criticizing the College and calling for the immediate revocation of the College’s new policies, calling them a “really stupid misunderstanding.”

Two weeks prior, Grinnell had published a set of reforms designed to limit speech on campus. Citing the high rate of inflation, the rules included:

  • A 1,000 word per day limit for each student
    • A $1 fine for every word in excess of the limit
  • A 4,000 word per day limit for each professor
    • A $1 fine for every word in excess of the limit
  • A quota for different strains of political speech. All spoken or written materials must be at least 20% liberal, 20% conservative, 10% socialist, and 10% anarchist
    • A $50 fine for any material failing to meet these requirements
  • A strict prohibition on the word “hate” (except when used in quotes to inform about the rule)
  • The designation of five “speech-free” zones around campus
  • A $2,500 tuition hike designated as a “press fee” to continue letting newspapers operate
  • A limit of one “fuck” per manuscript

In an interview with the B&S, Mary Lou Reed defended the College’s new procedures. “We value free speech,” Reed said, “but we simply don’t have the resources to continue subsidizing it. Have you heard about the avian flu? Egg-laying chickens are dying by the thousands, sometimes by the millions. They’re being culled. And so egg-producing farms—Eggeries? Is that the word?—are losing profits, while also running low on the amount of eggs to sell. Thus egg prices are going up, and thus the College is suffering.”

When pressed to explain non-monetary rules, such as the prohibition on the word “hate,” Reed had another explanation. “Student safety is of the utmost priority to the administration. We want students to feel valued. The word ‘hate’ [accompanied by air quotes] can remind students that they aren’t always valued. So we decided that, to best combat prejudice, we’d stop talking about it all together.”

Burt Reynolds, a lawyer for the ACLU, told us that the restrictions on profanity represented a grave threat to higher education. “Frick is a vital part of college,” said Reynolds. “It’s like, really fricking important. And the idea that free speech and inflation are connected is fricking ridiculous. It’s a clear attempt to restrain student expression, I mean, what kind of fricking idiot thought of this?”

(Editor’s note: Reynolds did not say fricking. The B&S met its limit for “fricks” on the first page.)

“It’s kinda unnecessary,” said Annabella Pork ‘24. A self-described “disco-Marxist,” Pork is unsure of how to classify her political speech. “Let’s say I post an Instagram Story, and it says that I want to nuke the military-industrial complex. Is that anarchist? Is it liberal? I have no clue, and I definitely don’t want to get fined $50.”

The controversy comes as part of a nationwide debate around speech in higher education. Hamline University in Minnesota, for instance, cut ties with an art professor after she depicted the Prophet Muhammad in class. At the UC Berkeley Law School, a student group banned Zionist speakers from giving speeches. And Hillsdale College implemented a zero-tolerance policy for pronouns of any kind, leaving students addressing themselves in the third-person like Elmo. 

Grinnell has not yet released an official response to the ACLU’s complaint.