According to this article, the University of Minnesota has adopted a resolution supporting free speech. In fact, the resolution was written by University faculty. This all started when Milo Yiannopoulos and Christina Hoff Sommers spoke at the University. The topic that night was about how feminism “has gone off the rails.”
Some of the students “argued that Yiannopoulos and Hoff Sommers professed ‘hate speech,’ which they believe is not protected by the 1st Amendment right to free speech.” While it’s amazing that the University of Minnesota has passed this resolution, it isn’t amazing to find out that students think that hate speech isn’t protected by the First Amendment. Instead, it’s disappointing to think that students could graduate from high school without learning what the First Amendment protects and provides for.
These students apparently haven’t thought through who’d determine the definition of hate speech or the subjective nature of that definition. The statement is based on the following four core principles:
- A public university must be absolutely committed to protecting free speech, both for constitutional and academic reasons.
- Free speech includes protection for speech that some find offensive, uncivil, or even hateful.
- Free speech cannot be regulated on the ground that some speakers are thought to have more power or more access to the mediums of speech than others.
- Even when protecting free speech conflicts with other important University values, free speech must be paramount.
Students have been taught that ‘hate speech’ isn’t protected by the First Amendment. That’s wrong. The only speech that isn’t protected by the First Amendment is speech that incites violence. Eugene Volokh is one of the foremost authorities on the First Amendment. He should be because he teaches at the UCLA Law School. Prof. Volokh wrote this article on the subject of hate speech. Here’s what he said about hate speech:
To be sure, there are some kinds of speech that are unprotected by the First Amendment. But those narrow exceptions have nothing to do with “hate speech” in any conventionally used sense of the term. For instance, there is an exception for “fighting words” — face-to-face personal insults addressed to a specific person, of the sort that are likely to start an immediate fight.
Congratulations to the University for standing up for the Constitution. Still, it’s disappointing that these students aren’t better educated on what the Constitution means or what the Constitution protects. The First Amendment is one of the pillars upon which this nation was built. Prof. Volokh provides this important insight, too:
Of course, one can certainly argue that First Amendment law should be changed to allow bans on hate speech (whether bigoted speech, blasphemy, blasphemy to which foreigners may respond with attacks on Americans or blasphemy or flag burning or anything else). Perhaps some statements of the “This isn’t free speech, it’s hate speech” variety are deliberate attempts to call for such an exception, though my sense is that they are usually (incorrect) claims that the exception already exists.
I think no such exception should be recognized, but of course, like all questions about what the law ought to be, this is a matter that can be debated.
While there’s room to debate what the First Amendment ought to protect, there’s no room for debate on whether the University of Minnesota did the right thing in standing up for the First Amendment.