Free Speech: What is it and who does it protect?
Free Speech is a first amendment right that bars the government from censoring speech. This protection covers federal, state, local, and government sectors/actors such as public schools and universities, courts, elected officials, lawmakers, and police officers. This means that within publicly funded spaces, the government cannot censor speech. There are, however, limitations. There are TEN categories of speech that are not protected by Free Speech which include (Nott, 2022):
In addition, free speech does not apply to privately owned businesses and organizations and citizens. For example, a publicly funded university cannot suspend or censor students who oppose a policy, but a private university can.
Hate Speech: What is it?
Hate speech is any type of expression where the speaker seeks to dehumanize, incite violence, hatred or blame against a class or group of people based on their race, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, religion, skin color or other traits. Hate Speech, though vile, offensive, hateful, and abhorrent, is protected by the First Amendment, particularly hate speech that is political (Hudson, Jr., 2017), but there are limits to hate speech that are NOT protected. Speech that incites lawless action or that falls into the category of true threats is not protected.
What does this mean at Harper?
Harper is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters. However, while we greatly value civility, we also hold that every member of the College community share in the responsibility of maintaining a climate of mutual respect (Harper College Handbook).
Harper stands firmly against any expressions that are discriminatory based on individual/group identities (e.g. race, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, marital status, national origin, religion, skin color, etc.) and/or incites physical or psychological violence against individuals or groups. Such speech and actions stand in opposition to our community expectations and the rights of all our members to have a safe learning and working environment. The freedom to debate and discuss the merits of competing ideas does not mean that individuals may say whatever they wish, wherever they wish. The College may regulate expression that (Harper College Handbook):
In addition, the College may reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities of the College. All students are expected to uphold college policies towards pursuit of their educational objectives.
Behaviors and forms of expression—on campus or on College computers, networks, or other technology system resources (Harper College, 2021)—that endanger or threaten the safety of any person in the college or community are considered to be a violation of the College’s Free Speech and Expressive Activities and Student Code of Conduct. Violations of student conduct and/or the College’s Free Speech and Expressive Activities policies may result in:
Violations of the Free Speech and Activities Policy and/or Procedural Guidelines by visitors or other individuals who are not students or employees of the College will be handled by the Harper College Police Department (Harper College Handbook, p 56).
For more on the Student Code of Conduct and Resolution Procedures, as well as prohibited student behaviors, refer to the Harper College Handbook and Student Code of Conduct.
Harper College (2022). Harper College Fall 2022 Handbook. Retrieved from: https://www.harpercollege.edu/catalog/handbook/index.php
Harper College (2021). Student code of conduct. Retrieved from https://www.harpercollege.edu/services/conduct/pdf/Student%20Code%20of%20Conduct.pdf
Hudson, Jr., D.L. (2017). Hate speech online. Retrieved from https://www.freedomforuminstitute.org/first-amendment-center/topics/freedom-of-speech-2/internet-first-amendment/hate-speech-online/
Nott, L. (2022). Is your speech protected by the first amendment? Retrieved from https://www.freedomforuminstitute.org/first-amendment-center/primers/basics/