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Hate Speech On College Campuses

563 words - 2 pages

Racism, sexism and homophobia is growing on college campuses around thecountry. In response, many universities have adopted policies that address bigotry byplacing restrictions on speech. The alternative to such restrictions, many administratorsargue, is to allow bigots to run rampant and to subject their targets to a loss of equaleducational opportunity. The power of a university to eliminate bias on campusultimately depends not on its ability to punish a racist speaker, but instead on the depthof its commitment to the principles of equality and education. Many universities, underpressure to respond to the concerns of those who are the objects of hate, have adoptedcodes 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 theUnited States Constitution protects speech no matter how offensive its content. Speechcodes adopted by government financed state colleges and universities amount togovernment censorship, in violation of the Constitution. And the ACLU believes thatall campuses should adhere to First Amendment principles because academic freedomis a bedrock of education in a free society. No social institution is better suited to fightbigotry than the university. It can do so in its courses and perhaps most importantlythrough the way it conducts itself as a community. We're not talking about choosingbetween the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment. We're talking aboutchoosing between regulating speech and regulating action. Murder is illegal. Talkingabout it isn't. Freedom of thought and expression is particularly important on thecollege campuses. The educational forum is where individuals come together toparticipate in a process of shared inquiry and where the success of that...

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