Monday, June 19, 2017

Free speech: A message for public universities (and their students)

For the universities, before you spend any more time and money expanding the university bureaucracy to implement that micro-aggression reporting system, read Matal v. Tam.  It doesn't say anything the rest of us didn't already know, and it involves the government's denial of a person's right to a trademark because of offensive speech, but all of the principles still apply.  (It is, after all, the First Amendment.)  Here are some quotes of interest from the decision, along with some concluding remarks to the universities and their students:

1.  There is no hate-speech exception to the First Amendment.  "Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express the thought that we hate."

2.  You can't suppress speech you don't agree with.  "Those few categories of speech that the government can regulate or punish—for instance, fraud, defamation, or incitement—are well established within our constitutional tradition. See United States v. Stevens, 559 U. S. 460, 468 (2010). Aside from these and a few other narrow exceptions, it is a fundamental principle of the First Amendment that the government may not punish or suppress speech based on disapproval of the ideas or perspectives the speech conveys."

3.  You should be thankful that you can't suppress speech you don't agree with.  "A law that can be directed against speech found offensive to some portion of the public can be turned against minority and dissenting views to the detriment of all. The First Amendment does not entrust that power to the government’s benevolence. Instead, our reliance must be on the substantial safeguards of free and open discussion in a democratic society."

Now, fire some of those bureaucrats and get back to teaching students how to think critically about their positions and form cogent arguments instead of screaming, swearing, and making demands.

And for students, if your college spends any amount of time or money to shield you from unpopular viewpoints, either transfer to another college that respects free speech (like George Mason or U. Chicago) or at least skip the liberal arts and major in something apolitical, like accounting or engineering.  Those are much tougher degrees to earn, but at least you'll have a decent shot at landing actual employment when you leave the academic bubble.    

No comments:

Post a Comment