Kansas Progress Institute

Ad Astra Per Aspera ~ To the Stars Through Difficulties

Harassment of Individual Not Exactly Free Speech

Posted on September 30, 2016

By David Burress

The University of Missouri suspended a fraternity for shouting racist words at two black females. I think UM did the right thing.


The problem of hate speech on campus keeps coming up. It is presented as a conflict between free speech rights and rights of students to be treated with equal respect. I disagree, at least in part.

In the American legal tradition, hate speech as such is generally protected under free speech rights. However:

–when hate speech is directed at a specific individual it also constitutes harassment, and bigoted harassment should be subjected to sanctions on campuses.
–when hate speech is authorized or published by an organization, it constitutes de facto discrimination against members of the targeted class. Campus organizations that discriminate ought to be sanctioned. For example, it is legitimate to sanction an organization that invites a known hate speaker to campus, because they are engaging in discrimination by making it impossible for members of targeted class to be treated with equal respect at their event.
–and of course when hate speech is endorsed in class by a teacher, he or she should be fired for lack of professionalism.
–But: when a student engages in hate speech in a class, logically he can legitimately be sanctioned under two rubrics: he is saying something stupid, which can affect his grade; and he is de facto attempting to establish an environment that harasses or discriminates against classmates.
However, I think sanctions in these cases should be handled with great restraint, because they interfere with the opportunity to educate that student (and sometimes other students as well) about the stupidity behind bigotry zovirax price.


–And on the other hand, students who, on their own, engage in hate speech not directed at specific individuals, and not with a captive audience, should in my opinion be subject to shaming but no official sanctions.

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