The Bergen County Record quotes:
In the full knowledge of the commitment that I am freely willing to undertake as a student, I promise to respect each and every member of the college community without regard to race, creed, political ideology, lifestyle orientation, gender or social status sparing no effort to preserve the dignity of those I will come in contact with as a member of the college community. I promise to Bergen Community College that I will follow this code of responsibility.
1. Honesty, integrity and respect for all will guide my personal conduct.
2. I will embrace and celebrate differing perspectives intellectually.
3. I will build an inclusive community enriched by diversity.
4. I am willing to respect and assist those individuals who are less fortunate.
5. I promise my commitment to civic engagement and to serve the needs of the community to the best of my ability.
There was some talk last Thursday about the possibility that "the college, ultimately, may opt for an 'aspirational' statement as opposed to a code," but the statement from a college spokeswoman Wednesday had been, "The pledge would not be optional .... If you don't agree, it is President Ryan's vision that you cannot attend the school."
Some of this just can't be taken seriously: "I promise to respect each and every member of the college community without regard to ... creed [or] political ideology ... sparing no effort to preserve the dignity of those I will come in contact with"? You have to respect people whose religious "creed" is that the Earth is flat, or that blacks or whites are morally inferior? You have to respect people without regard to political ideology, "sparing no effort to preserve the dignity of" Nazis or Stalinists?
But even if you set that aside, students are entitled to be selfish, or to channel their altruism in ways other than "civic engagement [or] serv[ing] the needs of the community," or not to have any interest in working to build inclusive communities enriched by diversity. And they are entitled to get the benefit of an education at Bergen Community College even if they take such personal views, which should not be the subject of any loyalty oath. If the College wants to require them to study certain topics, or even engage in certain extracurricular activities, it may so require. But under the First Amendment, it can't demand a pledge that students not only do certain things, but do them with the right attitude.
Interestingly, all this is defended as an attempt to "balance First Amendment rights with a need to bring civility into an institution." But even beyond the unconstitutionality of this particular balance, note that much of the proposal isn't about "civility" -- it's about enforcing a particular ideology of "civic engagement," "serv[ing] the needs of the community," and "assist[ing] those ... who are less fortunate," and excluding students who don't share this ideology no matter how civil they might be.