Treasonous baby talk, great moments in volleyball, the stars discover morals, and other matters. THE VIEW FROM PALO ALTO

(FORTUNE Magazine) – And now we come to an item that has everything. It has sex. In fact it has safe sex. It has culture, and not only tired old Western culture -- this one also has Third World and feminist culture. It has humor. It will actually include one genuine joke. And as you already intuit, it also has Stanford University, which some folks say is the best institution of higher education in the country even if the students, faculty, and administration all seem to have been overinfluenced by liberal-radical nuttiness. Oh, yes, the item also has volleyball. The nuttiness never stops. Stanford's faculty senate decided awhile back that the university's courses in Western civilization were too male-oriented, too white-oriented, and for good measure too Western. Memorable scene: 500 students marching with Jesse Jackson, chanting, ''Hey hey, ho ho, Western culture's got to go.'' Outcome: a decision to assign more ''works by women, minorities, and persons of color.'' The campus has also been in a tizzy because of the threat, ultimately deflected, that a certain archfiend in the White House might establish a Ronald Reagan Library in Stanfordland. More recently, but still responding to the egalitarian imperative, the university has begun offering the ultimate student benefit -- free condoms. The Safer Sex Shoppe on campus also offers free counseling on which condom to choose. We learn from a dispatch sent East by a bug-eyed (we assume) New York Times correspondent that the selfsame shoppe features volleyball games with inflated condoms. As earnestly explained by a student volunteer, the point is to make sex education more enjoyable. Than what she didn't say. Maybe sex itself. Moving right along, we come to the latest fruitcake follies: the row over joke censorship. Friends, this one is a biggie. It seems that Stanford, in common with most universities, is a major user of computers based on the Unix operating system. It also seems that among the databases available to Unix users is a file called rec.humor.funny -- a collection of jokes. The jokes are periodically updated and supplied at no expense to the university. Their , supplier is one Brad Templeton, who does all this partly for kicks, partly because it helps him sell old-fashioned jokebooks (you know, the kind printed on paper). As it is well known that tout academe is scared witless by anything that might be considered insensitive, Templeton had a little problem: handling jokes that would offend. Offending people is, of course, the main reason for having jokes in the first place. Brad's solution to this problem: to ''encrypt'' all jokes he considers offensive. If you are browsing in rec.humor.funny and come to one of these, it won't just leap out at you. Instead, you receive a message stating which groups are in danger of being scandalized and indicating that you cannot access the joke unless you know some special code or cipher (which could vary with the software). Basic idea: If you still go ahead, you are in no position to gripe. The row at Stanford erupted after an MIT graduate student in faraway Massachusetts complained about the file after reading a joke that had accidentally not been encrypted. We initially learned of the row from Computerworld, which recounted the whole story except for one critical detail. It never said what the joke was. We have now researched this burning question: A Scotsman and a Jew are having dinner in a restaurant. When the waiter brings the bill, the Scotsman says, ''I'll take it,'' and he does. Next morning this headline appears in the local newspaper: JEWISH VENTRILOQUIST FOUND MURDERED IN BLIND ALLEY. Not bad, eh? And yet the student objector at MIT for some reason rated the joke anti-Semitic. Amazingly, the Scots have not yet complained. Even more amazing, the authorities at MIT stayed quite relaxed about the student's protest. Cambridge's callow technologists there are still receiving the joke file. At Stanford, however, word of the complaint caused President Donald Kennedy to agitatedly meet with the university's executive committee, which naturally decided the joke file had to go, in the name of ethnic harmony. Or something like that. The Stanford administration ordered the file purged from all computers under its control. But the Computer Science Department, which also controls some hardware, is defying the ban, likening it to censorship of a university's library. Professor John McCarthy, a member of the department, has engaged in acts of civil disobedience if not samizdat: He is not only preserving but adding to the file. Alas, we do not know any of his jokes.