Do University Presidents Hate the First Amendment?

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

In Texas, it’s becoming a real question.

Presidents of colleges and universities in the San Antonio area signed onto a letter in which they attempted to distinguish free speech from hate speech. “As members of the Higher Education Council of San Antonio (HECSA), we – the presidents of colleges and universities throughout this community and supporters – feel that it is important for us to speak out and make a distinction between diversity of thought and disingenuous misrepresentation of free speech,” they stated. “We further attest that hate speech has no place at our colleges and universities.”

“Inappropriate messages, banners and flyers that are meant to provoke, spread hate, or create animosity and hostility, are not welcome or accepted.”

Yet and still, “there is no hate speech exception to the Free Speech Clause, as the Supreme Court unanimously reaffirmed this year in the Slants case,” Eugene Volokh writes on the blog. “Private universities aren’t legally bound by this (except in California, where a state law applies Free Speech Clause rules to them); but public universities, such as Texas A&M and UT, certainly are. And while universities aren’t barred from condemning speech they disapprove of, this statement — especially if read by students who aren’t up on First Amendment law — strikes me as suggesting that the universities will actually punish such speech (since it’s not ‘free speech,’ and since it’s not ‘accepted’).”

“Yet such punishment of ‘[un]welcome’ viewpoints would be unconstitutional.”