Hate speech and violence that goes with hate speech directed at people of color, lesbians and gay men, and other minority people is a big problem in the U.S. One of the places it is seem the most and where there are intolerance and discrimination statements are on college and university campuses, where it has happened off and on since the mid-1980s. Today these type of incidents are not found acceptable as they used to be and outrage and demands for action to stop such incidents happen a lot. Now Outrage, indignation and demands for change often greet these incidents.
The reason for writing this proposal is to make all students on campus feel comfortable with the surrounding society no matter what minority they belong to or even if they belong to the majority. What we are suffering from at our campus could be described as discrimination. Some people use the First Amendment as an excuse to discriminate and harass certain people or groups calling it free speech. And even if it does count as free speech under the law that does not make it okay to hurt and intimidate other people. For example there is an ASU student who will be referred to as Tom. Tom insults and offends people at ASU using “Free speech” as an excuse. I don’t think those who wrote the first amendment meant for it to be used as a defense for being able to say any hurtful thing someone wants, insulting and intimidating others just because the belong to a certain group of people the attacker feels are inferior in some way. While I would like it to be possible to arrest and punish Tom and people like him so they would be examples of people who use US laws as a defense to stand behind while harming others, even hate speech falls under the first amendment.
Yet there is a big is a big difference between the right to express an opinion that is well reasoned and based on logic but which not everyone would agree with and speech which is not based on any logic and just used to hurt others because they belong to a certain minority group. Although Tom’s speech is protected under the first amendment, it is hate speech. There is no universally agreed up definition of hate speech but generally covers “abusive, denigrating, harassing speech targeting a group’s or individual’s national, racial, religious or ethnic identity,”(Steiner, Alston & Goodman). Human Rights Watch defines hate speech as “any form of expression regarded as offensive to racial, ethnic and religious groups and other discrete minorities, and to women,” (Walker). Some scholars define hate speech as “a generic term that has come to embrace the use of speech attacks based on race ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation or preference,” (Clark). Even though not everyone agrees on the definition of hate speech I think that if it is purposely aimed at a majority and causes hurt or intimidation it can be call hate speech. Even though people disagree on what it is I think we know it when we hear it.
A lot of cases of hate speech have and do now occur on college campuses and the frequency of hate speech is growing. This means that there needs to be a constitutionally consistent hate speech code for college campuses. Even though some private universities have made these codes, public colleges are not allowed to since they have to follow federal law where private universities can decide some things for themselves. But even though hate speech is protected under the first amendment it goes against the fourteenth amendment which says that everyone must be treated and protected equally under the law.
Tom is an example of how free speech can be used wrongly and how someone can hide behind the first amendment when they want to use hate speech, discriminate against or intimidate certain kinds of people. The police cannot do anything because what Tom does is not against the law and they even protect him when he is saying his hate messages. This makes it look like the police are going along with him and agree with what he is saying. This gives him more strength and adds to the shame and victim like feelings of the people he insults. This makes it clear that college campuses need hate speech codes in place so they can punish people who use hate speech against others. Many students come from different countries and think that in the U.S. human dignity is protected and everyone is seen as equal. However, what they find is sometimes completely different. Moreover, Tom could be considered a threat to people, because he threatens them using his words.
Research says that there is a relationship between hate speech and hate crimes. For example studies show an association between the immigrant reform debate, hate speech against immigrants and hate crimes against immigrants (Johnson & Cuevas Ingram). So there is a strong possibility that at some time Tom will begin to act out violently with or without a weapon. Stopping hate speech can then prevent hate crimes that can leave people hurt. Hate speech can leave many people not feeling safe and college campuses are places where the students need to feel safe to get the education they came there to get.
The goal is to increase knowledge about hate speech to create a large group of people who want to have hate speech codes put into place at a private college. A private college was picked for this project because they can make these kinds of codes while public colleges can’t. In this way, a change in policy can happen and student will feel safer and more respected on their campus. Increasing awareness will increase the chance that people will be willing to act and help create the code and consequences for people who break it. Then students will feel greater dignity and take more pride in being part of this college. The more awareness will also mean that students will know that hate speech is not allowed and they will report others who use it.
To do this, pamphlets and signs will be used to help people know more about the problem. People who support the project to make a hate speech code will be asked to contact the person running the project. The group will develop a model code that could be put into place called the Appropriate Speech Code. First the definition of improper speech would need to be decided. For the purpose of this paper behavior not acceptable would include discriminatory harassment which is anything oral, written, drawn or otherwise depicted or physical whether director implied, which is intended for an individual or group based on race, color, national origin, religion, culture, sex, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, veteran’s status or other type of individual or group identity that is specifically targeted. It will be emphasized that the behavior in question is intended or can be foreseen to be perceived as offensive, condescending, demeaning, embarrassing, intimidating, threatening or hostile for the individual or group of individuals.
The cost would be the amount the brochures and signs cost to be made. After the code is put into place students who break the rules will be cited and have to pay a fine which will go to paying back the money the project cost.
Discrimination changes from one person to another. There is discrimination by age, sex, religion, disability, and, sexual harassment. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission “The EEOC investigates discrimination complaints based on an individual’s race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, genetic information, and retaliation for reporting, participating in, and/or opposing a discriminatory practice.”
I propose to increase the awareness and knowledge of people on a campus about hate speech and equality. Also, I want to get a group together who can make a model hate speech code and determine the consequences for breaking the code.
This effort will be carried out at a private college which is allowed to pass their own disciplinary codes even if it does not fully conform with certain amendments. Since hate speech is a part of free speech and protected under the first amendment, public colleges and universities cannon enact codes or rules prohibiting any type of content even that which falls under the category of hate speech, writing etc.. In order to get this code adopted, a focus group will be formed to develop the rational, definition of behavior to be censors red and consequences for breaking the code. The definition of the behaviors is listed above however it would need to be more fully broken down to be all inclusive.
Consequences will include 1 day suspension for the first offense with no work including tests being able to be made up 3 day suspension for the second offense with no work including tests being able to be made up, third offense 5 day suspension with no work including tests being able to be made up, fourth offense expulsion for college. 1 day, 3 day and 5 day suspensions count only days the student has classes not weekends or days they have no classes scheduled
To familiarize people with the new code I would make brochures with information and put up signs to make people more aware. They would be told to contact me if they are interested helping make a code. The code would go to the student body to be supported then to college administration to be put into place on a trial basis. Signs about the new code will be put up and they will also reveal the sanctions and penalties for insulting people.
Although hate speech falls under the protection of the first amendment, the Proper Speech Code prevents harm which is more important than any restrictions on freedom. When sexist, or racist statements, threats, intimidating comments or other types of hate speech are aimed at an individual student or group of students, the outcomes is usually far worse than mere hurt feelings. The verbal lashing is a holdover of an oppressive society with a history of discrimination and subjugation that stays with the targeted student and stands in the way of their ability to compete equally in an academic setting as well as to function normally mixed social settings. This harm is obviously significant and thus, justifies the limits placed on free speech. The Proper Speech Code will also serve as a solution to the debate between the right to free speech and the right to an education. Students exercising their freedom of speech rights could use hateful or intimidation comments that through the reaction of the targeted individual can stand in the way of their ability to learn and ruin their chances to obtain an education.
- Clarke, Ben. “Freedom of Speech and Criticism of Religion: What are the Limits?” eLaw Journal 14.94 (2007).
- Johnson, Kevin R., and Joanna E. Cuevas Ingram. “Anatomy of a Modern-Day Lynching: The Relationship Between Hate Crimes Against Latina/os and the Debate over Immigration Reform.” NCL Rev. 91 (2012): 1613.
- Steiner, Henry J., Philip Alston, and Ryan Goodman. International human rights in context: law, politics, morals: text and materials. Oxford University Press, USA, 2008.
- Walker, Samuel. Hate speech: The history of an American controversy. U of Nebraska Press, 1994.