We live in a strange age indeed when editorials in the student newspapers of some of the most prestigious institutions of higher education in our country call for draconian anti-free speech measures and rely on buzzwords and pseudo-legal phraseology to further intolerance of anything that is unwoke.
Today’s example of this anti-free speech campaign among the left is a March 25, 2022 editorial in The Hoya, the largest student newspaper of Georgetown University. The piece is entitled, EDITORIAL: Refine Free Speech Policies.”
First of all, note the disarming but chilling use of the word “refine.”
A common understanding of the word “refine” is to “remove impurities or unwanted elements” from something. In this case, free speech and viewpoint diversity from Georgetown University.
One does have to credit the writers with informing those of us who have never been to Georgetown University that it has this ironically named locale:
Red Square, the designated free speech zone on campus
You would think that would-be journalists would be protesting the idea of there even being such a travesty as a Soviet-sounding “free speech zone” on an American university campus. After all, journalists tend to want free speech not to be confined to “zones” designated by authorities.
But no, they mention this ghastly restriction of idea exchange to a specified vicinity at their college only in passing before they move to arguing for the “refining” of the free speech rights of everyone at Georgetown.
Note the language here, which calls for a clampdown on “hate speech” (of which specific examples are not given in the editorial—“homophobic” is a little vague) which is followed immediately by call for a carveout for all that is leftist:
…the Editorial Board urges the university to uphold its commitment to free speech by implementing new zero-tolerance rules on hate speech and instituting explicit protections for speech even if it conflicts with Catholic teachings
Oh, yes. I trust those who use phrases like “zero-tolerance” to protect my free speech rights.
The editorialists do not seem to grasp that free speech often involves speech we hate. They complain that Georgetown’s policies
do not clearly delineate between free speech and hate speech nor do they express any difference in the ways this speech is treated
As one astute writer in the comments section to the piece rightly points out about that passage in the editorial:
Wait until you guys find out that hate speech is free speech under the law and that no delineation you call for exists.
The writers quote this policy of the university as if it were horrifying instead of nicely encapsulating what a university is supposed to stand for:
“It is not the proper role of a University to insulate individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive,” the Speech and Expression Policy reads.
It is a sad commentary on the woke mindset that such a basic statement of the mission of higher education is shocking to the young lefties of The Hoya.
The writers indicate that they are very uncomfortable with the broad application of fundamental constitutional protections and want to cocoon their peers from anything that might upset them or foster the ability of Georgetown University students to hone arguments against that which they abhor:
While the university should certainly not suppress unpopular speech or opinions, it must also more clearly define hate speech to exclude racist, homophobic or otherwise prejudiced comments as protected speech on campus. Students should not be ignorant to disagreeable or opposing ideas, but they are also not obligated to assume the responsibility of the university to address “deeply offensive” and potentially discriminatory speech.
Note that it is not even “hate speech” that the editorialists want to ban but anything that is even “potentially discriminatory speech.” Even as the writers call for “clarity,” they resort to heavy dollops of imprecise and alarmist language.
Would a stand against same-sex marriage be classed at a “hate speech” at a Catholic university? Would diatribes against the dreaded “white male” be classed as racist?
And would terms (e.g., “trans woman,” “people with uteruses,” “birthing people”) and displays of drag dress-up by men that are offensive to many women who value actual womanhood and want to protect it from the assaults of transgenderism be considered “hate speech?” The whole concept of “hate speech” is unworkable in a free society.
And words can change over time. Take the word, “queer,” for example. Once a pejorative, it is now embraced by many in the transgenderist movement. It is ironic that students who are desperately eager to seem progressive want to lock speech into rigid woke categories. Remember the case of “The Slants?” Not everybody wants language regulated—not even rock bands.
The student writers do not seem terribly big on freedom of speech but they definitely like mandatory training sessions—provided, apparently, that such sessions are designed to do this at a Catholic school:
protect speech that conflicts with its Jesuit values
True. A university should protect speech. But one wonders why students choose to attend a Catholic school and upon arrival become hell bent on making it as un-Catholic as possible.
Now, you might ask why does it matter that students at top-drawer schools like Georgetown wrongly think there is a body of actual law that trashes the Constitution in order to regulate something that there is no agreed on understanding of? To wit, “hate speech.”
I will tell you why. Because such students are future academic bureaucrats (like diversity, equity and inclusion officers) and journalists and so on and they seem to be getting their diplomas without acquiring a grounding in free speech traditions and values.
And that is not a healthy development in a democracy.