An area of concern, but one which is particularly difficult for universities to deal with, is the area of “Hate Speech.” This area is difficult because of the nation’s deep commitment to free speech and all universities’ particular focus on free speech as a major component in the university learning environment. We believe that we can both maintain respect for free speech and engage a fruitful concern for “hate speech.” With this in mind, we define Hate Speech as:
Hate speech is speech, text, images (written/spoken) presented in public that are designed to incite hatred, violence, contempt, or severe ridicule towards, or to intimidate or create terror or fear among members of racial, religious, or other groups (such as sexual minorities).
The UWF community values the freedom of expression rights guaranteed to all individuals in the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. While some acts of bias or hate may be violations of the law and/or University policy, many may be considered speech protected by the First Amendment; which allows for the expression of hateful and intolerant statements and expressive conduct. In such cases, no formal action can be taken against the offending person or persons. However, the University has an obligation and the right to respond to such incidents in a manner consistent with the role of promoting a climate of tolerance, respect, inclusion and dialogue. Having an ongoing discussion of what constitutes bias and hate speech, in the context of the preservation of free speech, is an imperative part of the process of creating and maintaining a just and inclusive learning community.