Last Saturday, President Trump announced that he intends to sign an executive order to cut federal research money to universities that fail to protect free speech (article here). This presents an opportunity to reflect on freedom of speech at Chico State with a few questions for you to consider and post a response to on the FDEV Blog…
- Does Chico State do enough to protect freedom of speech?
- Does Chico State do enough to protect vulnerable groups from speech that is offensive but not illegal?
- Do campaigns promoted by Chico State such as “I don’t say” or “Cultures are not Costumes” infringe on freedom of speech or expression?
- Are these campaigns effective in helping marginalized groups?
- In your classroom, how do you empower students to exercise freedom of speech, particularly when they have a dissenting opinion?
Speech that is not protected by the first amendment includes defamation, harassment, true threats, and inciting imminent violence. In his book “Free Speech on Campus”, Erwin Chemerinsky argues that campuses should not treat the expression of ides as a threat to the learning environment. He acknowledges the tension between “the desire to protect the learning experience of all students and the desire to safeguard freedom of expression.” How do you balance these two aspects in your classroom?
2 thoughts on “Free Speech at Chico State”
I think it’s extremely important to keep in mind that defending free speech can mean putting in imminent and physical danger marginalized students, faculty, and staff. One thing is to talk about free speech in theory, another to look at the consequences of free speech on individuals that are consistently threatened. The events at the Meriam Library are an evident example of this. By allowing indiscriminate free speech, whom are we hurting? And this cannot simply be a theoretical question.
We need to also keep in mind that the alleged impetus for this executive action doesn’t match the problem that the executive action is alleging to correct. The incident referred to as an exemplar of “infringement of free speech” was not an act that was supported or enacted by a university and it heavily implies a greater fallacy that is often employed in the discussion of free speech, in particular on university campuses. That is that members of privileged groups often believe that their right to free speech includes a perceived right to not have that speech challenged. And unfortunately most conversations about free speech when approached from this angle are centered on protecting the “free speech” of groups that already largely speak freely but are uncomfortable when that speech is challenged.