Protect against hate speech requires abridgment


Free speech, a core belief of the United States since its founding, is now under attack on the basis of shielding people from the words of others. In the Free Speech vs. Safe Spaces debate, the argument for revoking the protection of the first amendment is centered on saving individuals from “hate speech.”

In response to the rumors of danger on its campuses, the UW System Board of Regents issued a resolution in support of the right to free speech. As stated in The Ranger News, “United Council and #Blackout, along with other students across the UW System immediately began questioning the helpfulness of this resolution, believing it would allow hate speech on campus”(Strebe).

The Regents, in their resolution, argued that “it is not the proper role of the university to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they, or others, find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive”(UW Board).

The matter concerning the creation of “safe spaces” is not only vague, it is a legal matter, not the matter of the Regents. For example, what constitutes safe spaces, or what would be considered hate speech?  

Both of these terms are used throughout the debate, but more importantly, if free speech were to be abridged for “hate speech,” the term must be wholly defined for what it is to avoid unwanted interpretation.

Similarly, universities are institutions of learning, as the Regents said in their statement that “The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System has a longstanding tradition of support for academic freedom…” This tradition was created for the pursuit of truth, and the pursuit of truth in the past has led to many places, both good and bad.

The nation has always been a diverse one, therefore, it also must be an accepting one. The right to free speech is does not discriminate, although hate speech may be offensive, free speech is paramount.

If such hate speech were to escalate and disrupt the learning environment, or cause a physical threat/harm, the law as was created many years ago, would revoke the right.

However, the emotional damage caused by hate speech is not a constitutional reason for the removal of the right to free speech the Ranger News stated in their Feb 11 issue,  “United Council of UW Students achieved at least half of one of its demands on Friday when System president Raymond Cross publically apologized for the lack of support concerning underrepresented students and admitted that the system isn’t where it needs to be on regards to diversity and inclusivity.”

This demonstrates that the UW System does support diversity and frowns upon hate speech, but it is not in a position to create “safe spaces” where the rights of the first amendment are disbanded.

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