Berry College should have a speech code that addresses morally devaluing speech addressed toward a specific group of people in order to establish a safe learning environment for all students while preserving healthy public debate. Establishing such a speech code would positively impact both students and faculty at Berry College by increasing both the opportunity and motivation to challenge and debate potentially offensive topics. A clear line on what is acceptable and what is not would eliminate the blurry line between beneficial and hurtful dialogue and would thereby create a more academically stimulating community.
Berry College should ensure a safe learning environment for all students due to its mission to educate students from a variety of backgrounds holistically, including academically, morally and spiritually. Berry College’s declared mission and purpose is “to make an excellent private liberal-arts education accessible to talented students from a wide range of social and economic backgrounds” (Berry College Mission and Purpose). In order to provide this kind of education to all who choose to attend Berry College, the institution must inevitably create and protect an environment that allows an absence of fear or discrimination. Berry College is also committed to building character among its student body (Berry College Mission and Purpose). In order to effectively build character among all students, Berry College must not only ban hate speech for the benefit of victims but also encourage morality in all students involved.
Hate speech creates an unsafe learning environment for students because of the extent of the physical, mental, and emotional harm caused to victims as well as social repercussions. As Mari Matsuda elaborates on in her Public Response to Racism, victims of hate speech often experience both physical and psychological harm, with symptoms ranging from heart palpitations to metal illness (2335-2337). Many victims of hate speech experience depression, anxiety and emotional distress. Hate speech would also interfere with Berry College’s mission to provide “work experience and community service” for students (Berry College Mission and Purpose) by keeping students who are victims of hate speech from getting involved. Fear derived from hate speech would take away students’ personal freedom and their social involvement.
A speech code is an effective way to create a safe learning environment for all students because it will punish vicious, hateful slurs and will in turn decrease fear and discrimination within the student body. By establishing a guideline on forbidden speech on campus, the faculty and staff of Berry College recognize the severity and wide impact of hate speech and send the message that violence and devaluing another group of students or people is not tolerated on the college campus. By implementing a serious penalty for breaking the code, Berry College is establishing a culture that promotes academic...