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In-Class Demonstration by UCLA Students Silences Professor

Earlier this month, I wrote about an in-class protest by students at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in November that halted the professor’s teaching for an hour. During the demonstration, students asked the school to respond not just to racially discriminatory conduct but also to their professor’s alleged “microaggressions,” which researchers have defined as “subtle verbal and nonverbal insults directed toward non-Whites, often done automatically and unconsciously”—in other words, constitutionally protected expression. The students’ message, therefore, should concern advocates of free speech and academic freedom, particularly in light of a recent report on bias at UCLA that seems to condone the suppression of protected speech through intimidation.

But the students’ method of sharing their message, too, is problematic. As I explain in The Huffington Post today, the protesting students at UCLA effected a “heckler’s veto,” silencing their professor because they were offended by his speech. While FIRE always encourages students to add their viewpoints to the “marketplace of ideas,” student expression should not be used to prevent others from being heard.

Read about the UCLA demonstration and past FIRE cases involving heckler’s vetoes at The Huffington Post.

Image: Powell Library, UCLA - Wikipedia

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