Respecting Free Speech at UC Irvine

By June 8, 2005

UC Irvine’s Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Manuel N. Gomez wrote an opinion piece about freedom of speech that was posted today in the campus newspaper. His article is an excellent example of an administrator who understands the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech, the Supreme Court precedents for what constitutes protected speech, and his own right to voice his opinion about how he personally believes this right should be exercised. His comments stand in stark contrast to UC Irvine’s past attempt to censor constitutionally protected speech. Here’s an excerpt:
I want to remind our community that when we talk about free speech what we really mean is protected speech—protected by the Supreme Court, to be exact.

Think of it as a line drawn around certain types of speech across which no one can come to silence you.

This difference between free and protected speech may seem like mere semantics, but if you read the newspapers, spend time online or watch everything from Fox News to Jon Stewart, you can appreciate that there is a very real difference here.

This line of protection seems to be drawn too narrowly for some and too broadly for others.

Like some national boundaries, the protected speech line has moved over the years, in both directions.

And the tug-of-war—and I’m not using that term lightly—continues.

As the year draws to a close, I want to thank all those who have worked to establish and maintain dialogue across lines of difference. As you know, it is far more difficult to listen and respond respectfully to opposing views than it is to simply ignore or shout over them.

To those who have spoken provocatively and with intentional anger, we are legally bound to protect your right to express yourselves.

Any harassment of individual campus members, provocation of immediate violence, obstruction of the academic life of the campus or violations of campus policies or relevant laws will meet squarely with administrative and legal consequences.

You are not legally required to be wise in your speech.

I would ask you to be thoughtful and mindful about what you say and how you say it.

I ask you to use your right to free speech to facilitate dialogue and mutual understanding.

Unfettered speech is so much more powerful when accompanied by respect for others.

Schools: University of California, Irvine