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We Must Put and End to Hate Speech on Campus

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What if a college sponsors an activity, such as an “ugliest woman contest” where boys dress up as girls, and someone in the contest were to dress up as Aunt Jemima? At most public colleges and universities, such a display would be protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to worry about people doing such things? Wouldn’t the world be better if people had some common sense and displayed some respect for others by not doing or saying things that would alienate or offend other cultures, races, lifestyles, or sexes? Unfortunately, this is not the case and many public colleges and universities are caught in a balancing act between preserving their students’ First Amendment rights, while also trying to preserve the rights of their students to live and learn in an environment that is free from offensive language or actions.
So, what is college hate speech? According to Griffin, Sullivan, and Robertson (2010), hate speech is
speech intended to degrade, intimidate, or incite violence or prejudicial action against a person or group of people based on their race, gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual affiliation, gender identity, disability, language ability, ideology, social class, occupation, physical appearance, mental capacity, and any other distinction that might be considered by some as a liability. (p.225)
And even though the First Amendment grants us the freedom of speech, including such hate speech, there are limits. The federal and all state governments, including public colleges and universities and private schools that accept federal financial aid, cannot unnecessarily regulate speech, with the following exceptions: “obscenity, figh...


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...e, R. (1994). The regulation of hate speech on college campuses and the Library Bill of Rights. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 19(6), 372-377. Retrieved from http://ehis. ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=10&sid=55b48164-d699-4cf6-8f5b- 4c6ad633d724%40sessionmgr111&hid=116
Rabe, L.A. (2003). Sticks and stones: The First Amendment and campus speech codes. John Marshall Law Review, 37(1), 205-227. Retrieved from http://www.lexisnexis.com. proxy1.ncu.edu/hottopics/lnacademic/?verb=sr&csi=145279
Shiell, T. (2009). Campus Hate Speech on Trial. (2nd ed.). Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.
Tsesis, A. (2010). Burning crosses on campus: University hate speech codes. Connecticut Law Review, 43(2), 617-672. Retrieved from http://ehis.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/ pdfviewer?vid=12&sid=55b48164-d699-4cf6-8f5b-4c6ad633d724%40sessionmgr111& hid=4102



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