Verbal abuse that aims at minorities like gay people and people of color has become a severe problem, especially on college campuses where the diversity of students is very high. Universities have to respond to those issue by setting speech codes that regulate the hate speech and punish violators. However, hate speech codes on campus may violate the freedom of expression.
Now, let us take a look at four representative incidents about hate speeches that occurred on college campuses.
The first event involves a white student Eden Jacobowitz at the University of Pennsylvania who got punished due to his racial harassment targeted at female African-American students that made noise outside his dormitory. According to Jacobowitzs explanations, the term water buffalo that he yelled at those black women, should not be regarded as a racial slur since it is just a mild epithet for someone clumsy in Hebrew. The university decided that Jacobowitz should apologize, and get probation in the dormitory to avoid any future violation. Also, there would be a permanent record of this settlement on his transcript. However, Jacobowitz refuse to take this agreement. Meanwhile, some black students destroyed 14,000 copies of the campus papers when a columnist posted opinions against black people. However, they got no punishment. The officials of the university were, therefore, criticized for having a double standard in dealing with these racial incidents which involved minority students. Civil libertarians point out that it is better for the university to educate students rather than regulating their expression of ideas.
The second incident occurred when the administration of UC Riverside decided to disband a fraternity because of a Latino student group protest against the picture on the T-shirts produced by the fraternity, which they found offensive expressing a racial slur about Latino people. The fraternity accused the University of infringing on their rights to free speech based on the First Amendment. The Superior Court supported the body by recommending against its dissolution and the administrators needed to have a lesson on 1st Amendment. However, national fraternity required the UCR fraternity to provide a letter of apology, and each member had to do 16 hours of social service for a Latino community and attend a workshop about cultural diversity.
The third incident took place at the California Institution of Technology. For sending e-mails of sexual harassment toward another student, Jiajun Wen, the graduate student Jinsong Hu got dismissed. He was in the Country Jail for six months, then was acquitted by a Los Angeles Superior Court Jury, claiming that other malicious parties doctored his e-mails. The university did not have an efficient way to authenticate emails because emails can be easily manipulated and forged. The authority of the college insisted that a program could be used to send the e-mails, although Hu has an alibi and can prove that he did not send the e-mails. However, the attorney of Hu believed that unencrypted e-mails should not be a valid evidence to dismiss any students. In fact, Hus computer was accessed by someone else, and Wen, the ex-girlfriend of Hu, knew the password. Moreover, civil libertarians point out that regulation of sending offensive e-mail violates the freedom of speech.
In the last incident from the University of Missouri, a group of white students in Delta Upsilon fraternity expressed a racial slur towards black students. The university suspended the group according to the Office of Civil Right and Student Conduct. The new freshmen will need to take the training of race relation organized by the university so as to prevent a similar future incident.
Some people support the speech code, saying the hate speech should be regulated as they create harm to the rights of victims and the equality on campus.
Mari J. Matsuda, in the article, Assaultive Speech and Academic Freedom, states that hate speech or sexual harassment has become very a common problem for undergraduate students of color during their four-year education (Matsuda, p. 151). Matsuda supports the speech codes by saying that for both new and old students, life in college is not easy as they need to deal with many problems, like academic difficulties, financial trouble, and family issues. Therefore, for them, it is not the time to face or tolerate hate speech since they have to spend time and energy in dealing with those harassments, and their performance on their school works would be disturbed (p. 151). Also, equality and liberty are infringed by hate or racist speech. Hate speech should be prohibited as physical assaults often accompany them, which threatens other peoples free expressions that voice their ideas and disagreements (p.153). Moreover, it goes against the ultimate goals of the First Amendment, which is to protect dissent, to maximize public discourse, and to achieve the great flowering of debate and of ideas that we need for democracy to work (p. 152). Also, universities are places that provide knowledge to all students with the equal opportunity, and it is a second home for every student, which should not be contaminated with hateful speeches (p. 154).
Lawrence describes racial insults as face-to-face conflict (Lawrence, p. 159), which means that verbal abuse can create immediate harm toward the victims just like a slap in their faces. His belief is that the regulation of racist speech does not violate the First Amendment. Lawrence also believes that racial insults should not be protected as free expression under the First Amendment since the perpetrators purpose of delivering a racist speech is not to express truth or ideas but to humiliate the victim (p.159). Racial insults are different from protected free expressions due to their pre-emptive nature (p.159). Many victims get silenced when they are attacked with confrontational words because they are a disempowered minority and know that responding to the insults could bring them some physical risk (p.160). It is the universitys responsibility thus to provide an equal and peaceful environment of education to every student using stringent speech regulations (p.161).
Delgado and Yun refute the four anti-regulation arguments that are labeled as pressure valve, reverse-enforcement, best friend and talk back (Delgado & Yun, p. 162), referring to them as paternalistic. The pressure valve argument states that prohibition of fighting words could increase the hatred towards minorities. In contradiction, the authors stipulate that allowing verbal or physical insults would encourage the perpetrators, causing them to recur in the future. If an authority gives the impression that committing hate speech is permitted and safe, people may be encouraged to go against the moral value. The view of the reverse-enforcement argument is that the racist authority will use speech regulations as a tool against minorities themselves, as the minority may receive harsh punishment when they deliver hate speech. The authors argue that hate crimes are committed much more frequently by whites against blacks than the reverse (Delgado & Yun, p. 162). The best friend argument points out that the right of free speech is the minorities best friend, helping them to express their ideas freely and should therefore not be regulated. However, the history shows that the First Amendment is more useful to the majority than to the minority since minorities usually find it difficult to spread their speech. The talk back argument suggests that responding back to the perpetrators is more useful than regulating speech. The authors believe that people who make this argument are in the majority, which is the position of power. It might, therefore, be a burden for the victims to respond back as they may risk physical violence in challenging the majority.
Others oppose the speech regulation since it violates the freedom of expression and would not solve the underlying problem of discrimination.
In Campus Hate Speech On Trial, the author Timothy Shiells main point of view is that colleges should treat severe harassment and mere offensiveness differently. Shiell points out that educative methods could be more efficient in solving the discrimination and enhancing equality in the long run as compared to speech codes. When universities deal with hate speech, aggressors should get more education rather than punishment. Also, being accused does not always mean that the one is guilty. Therefore, universities should protect due process rights of any defendants. Shiell further suggests that college's policies should not tolerate the hate speech, but punish the conduct that harms others rights. He precisely defines hate speech as repeated speech that is targeted at and supposed to hurt a particular individual or groups of individuals, with no legal academic meaning, which essentially amounts to gross conduct.' Shiell believes that both freedom and equality are important. We should try our best, therefore, to achieve both of them rather than sacrificing one of them for the other.
McMasters does not support speech codes, saying that regulations do not solve the underlying discrimination that causes hate speech but rather encourages ignorance and meaningless debates and increases the conflicts between races further, as censorship is only superficial and only serve to censor the offensive words and symbols. Also, speech regulation limits the ability to express a variety of thoughts. McMasters believes that for hate speech to be stopped, students need to be educated and illuminated with those positive moral values, respect, and equality for example. There should be workshops or activities that teach students to comply with the cultural diversity on campus and tolerate opposite views. In the long run, education is always the best method to reduce the hate.
Gellman thought it is unnecessary to set speech regulations since many people can make their judgment and reject the discriminate idea from those hate speeches according to their moral value. Speech codes give the government the power as the arbitrator who makes all decision for the society like a Big Brother, assuming that the authority can always have an accurate judgment about which kind of speech is harmful enough to be prohibited. If the administration starts to ban hate speech, more and more speech will get abolished in the future, a concept known as the slippery slope. Regulating speech will, in some level, limit liberty as our criticism towards those immoral values could also be restricted. In fact, the positive effect of tolerating hate speech is that the moral value of the society can be challenged and is getting tougher in the future, showing the confidence of the community. On the other hand, the speech code is a kind of special protection towards those minorities. However, this kind of protection from the government gains them less respect and more resentment from the majorities. The pressure associated with morality, it would seem, works more efficiently than punishments in encouraging people to accept and respect each other in a diverse society.
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