FREE SPEECH VS. HATE SPEECH

Once again an individual’s right to free speech has been trampled at a university. It is a recurring theme on college campuses these days.

In this case a student at Texas Christian University made some disparaging remarks about radical Islam, rioters in Baltimore and illegal immigrants.

What happened next is typical of the Political Correctness Gestapo that pervades American colleges today. TCU banned the student from most campus activities, ordered him to perform 60 hours of community service and to attend a diversity training class.

Harry Vincent, a 19-year-old student, who is a member of the College Republicans and the Young Americans for Freedom, said he was told by the university that his conservative views were “inappropriate.”

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TCU vs. Harry Vincent

Specifically, Vincent wrote a series of Tweets in which he said: “These hood rat criminals in Baltimore need to be shipped off and exiled to the Sahara desert. Maybe then they’ll realize how much we provide for them (welfare, college tuition, Obama phone’s, Medicare, etc.”

With regard to radical Islam and groups like ISIS he wrote: “This is clearly not a religion of peace.”

He also used the word “beaner,” a derogatory term to describe illegal immigrants from Mexico.

On April 29 TCU sent Harry a letter accusing him of violating the university’s code of student conduct – specifically he was accused of “infliction of bodily or emotional arm” and “disorderly conduct.”

Associate Dean of Students Glory Robinson ordered Harry to apologize for what he had written on his private social networking pages.

“Dean Robinson said I was going to need to write an apology letter and a letter stating what sort of punishment I thought I deserved,” Harry told reporters. “She told me not to use Freedom of Speech as a defense – or else I would be more severely punished.”

“Dean Robinson believes I am somehow damaged – she thinks there’s something wrong with me because of what I put out there on social media,” he said. “She told me how my conservative views were inappropriate.”

Vincent hired a lawyer and appealed. Predictably, he lost the appeal. He has since dropped out of TCU and he isn’t sure if he’s going back. Should he agree to their demands, he would be on disciplinary probation until 2018–the year he graduates.

Vincent says he is thinking of joining the Marines.

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“They’re trying to make me out to be the classic bigoted hateful white male,” Harry told a reporter. “That’s the complete opposite of what I am.”

Vincent has since apologized for using the word “beaner” to describe illegal immigrants coming over the southern border.

“I did not know that word was such a hurtful word,” he said. “I do regret that one because I do realize that could have caused harm to some people.”

Apology or not Vincent is being punished for exercising his right to free speech. Even the left-leaning American Civil Liberties Union agrees.

Here is what it says about what TCU and too many other universities call “hate speech.”

Free Speech vs. Hate Speech

“It is probably no accident that freedom of speech is the first freedom mentioned in the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The Constitution’s framers believed that freedom of inquiry and liberty of expression were the hallmarks of a democratic society.

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“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. Speech 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.

“How much we value the right of free speech is put to its severest test when the speaker is someone we disagree with most. Speech that deeply offends our morality or is hostile to our way of life warrants the same constitutional protection as other speech because the right of free speech is indivisible: When one of us is denied this right, all of us are denied. Since its founding in 1920, the ACLU has fought for the free expression of all ideas, popular or unpopular. That’s the constitutional mandate.

“Where racist, sexist and homophobic speech is concerned, the ACLU believes that more speech — not less — is the best revenge. This is particularly true at universities, whose mission is to facilitate learning through open debate and study, and to enlighten. Speech codes are not the way to go on campuses, where all views are entitled to be heard, explored, supported or refuted. Besides, when hate is out in the open, people can see the problem. Then they can organize effectively to counter bad attitudes, possibly change them, and forge solidarity against the forces of intolerance.

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“College administrators may find speech codes attractive as a quick fix, but as one critic put it: “Verbal purity is not social change.” Codes that punish bigoted speech treat only the symptom: The problem itself is bigotry. The ACLU believes that instead of opting for gestures that only appear to cure the disease, universities have to do the hard work of recruitment to increase faculty and student diversity; counseling to raise awareness about bigotry and its history, and changing curricula to institutionalize more inclusive approaches to all subject matter.

“Words have consequences only if we choose to give them consequences. It is not the words themselves that cause things to happen, but our estimation of the value, and truth, of those words.

 “Freedom of speech is often misunderstood to be a gift to crackpots, racists, or demagogues. But the truth is the opposite. The people who are really empowered by free speech are not the speakers but the audience. Free speech puts a premium on the decision-making ability of each of us to weigh up all the arguments and draw our own conclusions.

 “Even in its own terms, the idea that speech needs to be restricted because people lack the capacity to make correct judgments does not make sense. The only way to enhance anybody’s ability to form a correct opinion is to inform them with more speech. Restricting speech can only disempower people more. Freedom of speech is actually the best device we have to shape our decisions and justify our acts.”

It is sad to see that ideas and viewpoints–some of them controversial and some of them perhaps offensive to certain groups of people–are being quashed in the very places where ALL ideas and viewpoints should be open to discussion.

The idea that a university should restrict a person’s right to express him or herself is tantamount to intellectual book burning.

Running a 19-year-old off the TCU campus for speaking his mind is the worst kind of oppression–the kind once practiced by Nazi Germany and the defunct Soviet Union and that is still practiced by China, North Korea, Cuba and a collection of Middle Eastern Islamic states–and at too many universities in America.

As a former Professor and university dean, I am appalled by the heavy-handed beat down of students who express controversial ideas openly or who say things university administrators don’t like or agree with.

Listen to what ACLU Executive Director Ira Glasser said in a recent speech at the City College of New York:

“There is no clash between the constitutional right of free speech and equality. Both are crucial to society. Universities ought to stop restricting speech and start teaching.”

Glasser is correct.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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