Publication Date: August 18, 2023
Freedom of Speech is a First Amendment right that bars the government from censoring certain types of 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’s ability to censor speech is limited. There are, however, limitations. Examples of categories of speech that are not protected by the First Amendment include (Nott, 2022):
In addition, the First Amendment does not apply to privately owned businesses and organizations in the same manner that it applies to public entities. For example, a publicly funded university generally cannot suspend or censor students who oppose a policy, but a private university may have more leeway to do so.
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. For example, 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. At the same time, we greatly value civility, and we 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 discrimination 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 against actions or expression that 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. Examples of types of conduct or expression that may be regulated include conduct or 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 while pursuing 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 Policy and Student Code of Conduct. Violations of the Student Code of Conduct and/or the College’s Free Speech and Expressive Activities Policy 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.
*Disclaimer: The information on this page is for general informational purposes only. This information does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. In addition, although the information on this page is believed to be accurate at the time of publication, Harper College is not responsible or liable for any errors, omissions, or consequences arising from the use of the information contained on this page or any of the linked resources.