As we have discussed before, a furor started about a month ago at the University of Virginia after a few incidents of racist speech. Yesterday, former FIRE intern Anthony Dick, a U-Va. grad who is now an editor at National Review, wrote in the Washington Post condemning the idea that the appropriate way to respond to hate is illiberal restrictions on liberty. The whole piece is excellent, but the end is the best:
First, the Constitution prevents censorship of speech that is merely offensive or hateful. Like it or not, the First Amendment gives Americans the right to express vulgar, ignorant or repugnant ideas—and they do not forfeit this right when they apply to a public college.
Even more important than the constitutional consideration, however, is the larger issue of how a free society—and a free university—should deal with bigotry and hatred.
Do we turn to authorities to decide which expressions are permissible and which are offensive? Do we assemble a board of censors to scrutinize students and decide who among them is too hateful to be heard? Or do we put our faith in free discussion and open debate and allow all viewpoints to compete for attention in the marketplace of ideas?
The future of free speech on the U-Va. campus may depend on how the university decides to answer these questions.