Hate Speech on College Campuses

Essay by BioHazaRdUniversity, Bachelor'sF, October 1996

download word file, 2 pages 4.1

Racism, sexism and homophobia is growing on college campuses around the

country. In response, many universities have adopted policies that address bigotry by

placing restrictions on speech. The alternative to such restrictions, many administrators

argue, is to allow bigots to run rampant and to subject their targets to a loss of equal

educational opportunity. The power of a university to eliminate bias on campus

ultimately depends not on its ability to punish a racist speaker, but instead on the depth

of its commitment to the principles of equality and education. Many universities, under

pressure to respond to the concerns of those who are the objects of hate, have adopted

codes or policies prohibiting speech that offends any group based on race, gender,

ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.

That's the wrong response, well-meaning or not. The First Amendment to the

United States Constitution protects speech no matter how offensive its content.


codes adopted by government financed state colleges and universities amount to

government censorship, in violation of the Constitution. And the ACLU believes that

all campuses should adhere to First Amendment principles because academic freedom

is a bedrock of education in a free society. No social institution is better suited to fight

bigotry than the university. It can do so in its courses and perhaps most importantly

through the way it conducts itself as a community. We're not talking about choosing

between the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment. We're talking about

choosing between regulating speech and regulating action. Murder is illegal. Talking

about it isn't. Freedom of thought and expression is particularly important on the

college campuses. The educational forum is where individuals come together to

participate in a process of shared inquiry and where the success of that endeavor

depends on an atmosphere of openness, intellectual honesty and...