As readers are likely aware, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has been a hotbed of First Amendment discussion lately. Most recently, some students were upset when the dean of UCLA’s law school "merely" reiterated that a professor’s blog post—seen as offensive by some—contained his own views, and not those of the university. Those students hoped for a stronger statement akin to the judgment-laden response by UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block to the YouTube video posted by former student Alexandra Wallace.
On Friday, Daily Bruin opinion columnist Carly Cody explained why students seeking a stronger administrative response are misguided. Cody recognizes that such actions by the administration open the door to similar requests by anyone who happens to hear something that they find personally disagreeable:
Though deemed appropriate at the time, Block’s statement has created precedent for students to demand similar treatment to any remark that stands outside the periphery of their own beliefs.
Members of SHARE JD said they found Moran’s response to Bainbridge lackluster in comparison to the administration’s response to the YouTube video. The Bruin’s editorial board also argued that the reaction to Bainbridge’s post should have been bolder and consistent with the statements made by Block.
But such strong value-laden language was inappropriate to begin with.
. . .
Public universities are a marketplace of ideas, where the value should be put on sharing and weighing both sides of issues. Students elect to be here, and that means we must accept that we might hear things that we don’t agree with, whether they come from professors or other students.
While the university is certainly entitled to make clear its own positions and confront "bad" speech with better speech, we agree with this part of Cody’s assessment. If students are to engage in learning, they must themselves be prepared to hear, confront, and rebut speech with which they disagree, rather than demand that an administrator publicly rebuke the speaker and the speech. And as Erica pointed out in her post on Friday about the College Republicans’ flap at the University of Iowa, speech often serves to expose the carelessness, prejudices, and thoughtlessness of others—a result worth more than any statement from any administrator.