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Should Unrestricted Speech Be Allowed on College Campuses? Research Paper

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Updated: Apr 18th, 2021

Introduction

Hate speech is unrestricted or free expression towards an individual or a group due to their social status, ethnicity, sex, physical appearance, or family background that is offensive, dehumanizing, and breaches the victim’s peace, which makes him or her unable to fit in the social environment. Hate speech may take many forms that are especially directed as a way of discrimination to a minority group of people, which is so evident in college compasses and is accelerated by peer influence (Gould 13).

The increasing occurrence of hate speech among students is common today in the institutions of higher learning in the United States and fosters prejudice, which may trigger violence and even cause deaths. The effects of such statements are what matters since it is emotionally distressing to the victim targeted (Hoffman et al. 73). Therefore, many academic institutions have designed speech codes that are aimed at restricting the usage of terms that are biased.

Speeches codes are administrative laws designed according to the institutional policies and are aimed at restricting free speech, which is constitutionally acceptable by prohibiting certain behaviors. Some critics of speech codes point out that an individual has freedom of expression in whichever way he or she opts for, bearing in mind that he or she is legally protected by the constitution. The statutes help retain the right for individuals to express themselves freely, but this has been abused by many students in compasses and therefore, should be suppressed. Any form of speech as a mode of communication triggers both legal and ethical issues, which cause a dilemma of whether to be left free or be censored. The judicial system has generalized the form of speech that is considered hateful, with freedom of speech being legally safeguarded by the First Amendment (Hoffman et al. 76).

Should unrestricted speech be allowed on college campuses? This paper will evaluate the pro and cons of enforcing speech codes in academic institutions in relation to legal and moral standards stipulated by society. Speech codes in campuses safeguard against discriminatory harassment such as the use of hate speech and ensure fair academic opportunities for every student, a reason why they should be allowed in college or university campuses.

Supporting arguments for Speech Codes

In my opinion, I hold that speech codes are essential in helping academic institutions to censor free speech and therefore propose their application. Speech codes prevent a more degrading effect on the students that arise from restricting free speech through the application of disciplinary actions. This is due to the fact that the target individual(s) not only undergoes emotional distress but also significantly experiences a hindrance in successfully undertaking his or her academic life.

Nevertheless, assaultive speech or ‘fighting words’ are excluded in the first amendment by the U.S Supreme Court since they are injurious and emotionally distressing. Racial insults, for example, are injurious to those viewed as secondary citizens, which segregate them socially and restrains their freedom to intermingle with others. This negatively affects their social life in academic institutions where some of them are forced to quit schooling just to evade the consequences of being a target of assault (Lawrence 63).

Also, hate speech, which is prohibited by the use of speech codes, is a practical reflection of historical discrimination that formed the basis of slavery in the past. Universities and colleges present a small social entity that has diversified in terms of students’ ethnic backgrounds, social status, among others, some of whom represent racial prejudice which had existed in the past. Thus, it is only practical if the institutions which are symbols of civilization eradicate any hostility arising from some few individuals who only think they are socially advantaged.

Being institutions of higher learning, the colleges and universities should present an arena where issues are presented in a rational manner, and any misconduct that is demeaning to others should not be condoned. If that is the case, then hateful expressions that are directed at others is irrational and aims at provoking anger and violence. Therefore, the speech codes are factually and reasonably essential in safeguarding the interests of the victim of hate speech (Gould 6).

If something primarily hinders a prioritized aim, such as that of the academic institution of equipping students intellectually by transmitting knowledge and skills, then it is reasonable to eradicate it. This is emphasized by Plato, who states, “What kind of education shall we give then? We shall find it difficult to improve on the time-honored distinction between the physical training we give to the body and the education we give to mind and character…We must start to educate the mind before training the body” (491). Therefore, since hate speech obstructs that main objective of achieving academic mission in a college or university by disabling the learning process by mentally agonizing some people, it should be dealt with in a way to wipe it out completely.

Counter arguments for Speech Codes

From civil libertarians’ perspective, colleges and universities such as Harvard Law School should restrain from enforcing speech codes since they are a violation of basic human rights that should be enjoyed by both students and the staff in a democratic setup. This helps the ethnic minorities to be given attention and a way to solve their grievances, which would be otherwise not realized (Lawrence 63). Freedom of speech should not be limited by implementing speech codes since it is economically and morally expensive. This is observed when a student withholds information, whereas the university or college is meant to be a social institution in which the exchange of ideas should occur.

The speech code controls personal expression, which in turn conceals the voices that are looked upon by society as great public figures. Therefore speech codes are destructive to this social setup since the students refrain from airing their opinions. Moreover, it is not clear to what extent that the regulations should be enforced since they are vaguely stipulated, making it hard to define the extent to which they have been violated, both of which are issues that should be clarified (Volokh, pr.10). In addition, the promotion of free or uncensored speech in our academic institutions is seemingly influential academically since it enhances tolerance to the victim, and this helps an individual to become more adaptive in the world. This not only helps them while on the campus, but even after they graduate (Lawrence 61).

Alternative Strategies to Control Speech

Instead of speech codes, academic institutions should rather design a curriculum that facilitates students’ understanding in avoiding hateful speech and other degrading behavior that may adversely affect their fellow students. This could not only molds a student but also saves the institutions the hustle of having to follow-up cases of hate speech and having to take disciplinary measures either at their expense or that of the student.

Any breaching of such requirements should be condemned with immediate effect by the administration. Students who commit such offenses should be subjected to counseling by reasoning with them on the dire consequences that their misconduct has had on a fellow student. For instance, the Harvard House Masters have used persuasiveness, where the administration sets an example rather than imposing sanctions and other disciplinary measures to encourage a supportive learning community (Bok 67). The teaching staff is categorical as well as critical on any misconduct directed to others with the intention of degrading them by having to lead by example to emphasize that intellectuals refrain and have no time for such mean actions (Volokh pr.4).

The First Amendment

Scrutiny on the First Amendment is necessary since it is an indoctrination meant to curb the development of self-righteousness in some individuals over others who are socially disadvantaged, which in turn causes their segregation. What composes hate speech is assaulting others and severely bruises them emotionally. The interpretation of the first amendment, which encompasses hate speech as a means of restriction to an individual’s freedom of speech and expression, could also include such expressions as anonymous defamation, online speech, death threats, and pornography, which are misconducts that have bad consequences which yearn for legal attention.

For instance, pornography as a freeway of expressing desires may be offensive to some people. Feminists, for example, think that pornography degrades women, and therefore the constitution needs to censor pornography, just like free speech with offenders facing prosecution (Jacoby, 44).

Are there is cyber-assault scenarios from an online party who chooses to remain anonymous? Yes, there are, and these issues should be legally and critically addressed by the constitution, where internet users should answer for any harassment engaged in as a criminal offense. The instances are a clear indication that the U.S Supreme Court is supposed to reconsider the civic significance of anonymous digital expressions since its relevance to the community is insignificant (Keen 69&70). But their interpretation fails to do so since they are biased along ethnic lines, and this violates the spirit of tolerance.

The Court splits over their stand regarding the issue of censored speech being restricted by the First Amendment. This may be due to disputed motives of whether regulation of free speech is aimed at safeguarding the minority group or just to censor it. In essence, the Court may end up protecting a particular race by protecting the words directed to them while discriminating against another. The ambiguity of the statute may literally be referred to as safeguarding any form of communication so long as individuals are allowed to express it (Amar 24).

Also, referring to the first amendment with no idea of the dehumanizing effect that hate speech, such as racial epithets, results in is using it to dominate rather than liberate citizens. Other societal interests must be considered before claiming that everyone has a right to express freely since they may be used as a weapon to inflict others. It follows then that speech should be regulated, and failure to do so is similar to overburdening the minority in the society to be emotionally injured for the sake of maintaining tolerance in the society. A nondiscriminatory arena must be maintained in colleges and university campuses considering the historical experiences as well as the contemporary one. Therefore, it is wise to figure out jurisprudence to the constitutional statute so as to legally counter the vice else, it consumes and corrupts the moral standards set by the society (Lawrence 64).

Conclusion

The decision of whether to impose speech codes in academic institutions lies entirely on their hands due to different orthodoxies that guide different institutions. However, in my opinion, it is correct if speech codes were enacted to safeguard the minority group from insensitive individuals and create a harmonious environment for all. Irrespective of the fact that free speech is a constitutional right, this does not guarantee its civility. Mutual respect must exist in not only academic institutions, may it be public or private, but also in society as a whole (Bok 67). In addition, academia should concentrate on its mission of passing on knowledge to scholars rather than taking part in political affairs.

To accomplish its mission properly, the academia should be solely committed to matters that it is established to perform in a responsible manner such that other sectors would entrust it entirely as an institution that perfects its practice without having to be guided or supervised. It should harbor an environment in which it natures students to become socially acceptable through demanding morality (Fish 548&549). This is not achievable through encouraging free speech, which creates racial afflictions but by restricting it through stipulating the necessary regulations stated by the speech codes.

Works Cited:

Amar, Akhil Reed. “The case of the Missing Amendments: RAV. v. City of St. Paul”. Yale Law School: Faculty Scholarship Series.1992.

Bok, Derek. “Protecting Freedom of Expression on the Campus”. Boston Globe. 1991. (pp66).

Fish, Stanley. “Why we Built the Ivory. New York Times. 2004.

Gould, Jon. Speak No Evil: The Triumph of Hate Speech Regulation. London: The University Of Chicago Press. 2005.

Jacoby, Susan. “A First Amendment Junkie. New York Times”. 1978. (pp43).

Hoffman, Allan, Schuh, John and Fenske Robert. Violence on Campus: defining the problems, strategies for action.Maryland: Aspen Publishers, Inc.1998.

Keen, Andrew.”Douse the Online Flamers. Los Angeles Times”. 2008. (pp68).

Lawrence, Charles. “On Racist Speech”. Chronicle of Higher Education”. 1989. (pp61).

Plato “The Greater Part of the Stories Current Today We shall Have to Reject”. (pp490);

Volokh, Eugene. “Coding Campus, the Problem of Speech Codes”. (2002). Tower (pp547).

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