UChicago Student Paper Gets Flak For Demanding ‘Hate Speech’ Codes

January 13, 2015

By Greg Piper at The College Fix

That Chicago Maroon editorial asking the University of Chicago to separate “hate speech” from protected speech – under its new free-expression statement – is getting flak from civil-libertarian quarters but also on campus.

Student Max Bloom says in a letter to the editor that it’s “plainly impossible” to separate hate speech from simply “offensive” speech, which the paper wants to do:

How striking it was to spend a day listening to people vocally defend free speech and then see an editorial arguing that exactly the sort of content Charlie Hebdo was publishing should be banned on campus. “Speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups based on race?” Check. “Color?” Check. “Religion?” Check, goddammit. Et cetera. I do not support much of what Charlie Hebdo published. Most of it was crass and only some of it meaningful. They really were racist at times. But sometimes the very nature of their offensiveness made a point that couldn’t be made in any other way. …

[T]he definition of hate speech they use includes “speech that offends, threatens, or insults” certain groups. This is a terrifyingly vast category. … The Editorial Board argues, “While it’s important for students to challenge each other’s opinions, this should not come at the expense of students’ mental well-being or safety.” But anyone can make a case that a provocative opinion they disagree with threatens their mental well-being. It should! Speech and argumentation should make us uncomfortable—that’s what happens when you challenge a deep-seated opinion.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, Bloom says, invoking the Steven Salaita “civility” dispute at the University of Illinois:

Many of the people (perhaps most, though certainly not all) who argue for the division between hate speech and offensive speech are passionately pro-Palestinian. I imagine they would be horrified if events they organized, or speakers they hosted, were forbidden under hate-speech grounds. But the same justification University of Illinois gave for retracting Salaita’s hiring could be given for denying a pro-Palestinian group protest space or the right to hand out flyers.

Bloom’s logic fails to convince a columnist at the University of South Florida’s Oracle, whose article about cartoonists’  drawings following the Charlie Hebdo massacre is titled “Illustrate freedom of speech, not stereotypes“:

Though these response cartoons show resilience to the goals of terrorists and remind the population what it means to have a voice, it should not be forgotten that images depicting the archetypal bearded and turbaned terrorist stand on shaky territory in caricaturing Islamic extremists and risk representing Middle Eastern people as terrorists. …

Perhaps, instead of portraying images of terrorists or generic Middle Eastern villains, the focus should be put on using freedom of speech responsibly and insightfully instead of going back to the same recycled stereotype. …

In using freedom of speech as a tool, people can unite against a minority rather than risk creating a target for hate and discrimination in anyone of Middle Eastern heritage.

Read the Chicago Maroon letter and Oracle column.

Schools: University of Chicago