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Hate Speech should not be tolerated

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In his argument “Should This Student Have Been Expelled?” Nat Hentoff is against the expulsion of Doug Hann from Brown University. In the letter to the editor Vartan Gregorian says Brown University has never expelled anyone for free speech, nor will it ever do so. Hentoff opposes Gregorian saying that Doug Hann was expelled for the unsavory content of his speech, and not for his actions. He used Art Spitzer’s (legal director of the ACLU’s National Capital Area affiliate) simple test to support his statement. Hentoff blames Brown University by saying that the Brown Code or the rules are vague and ambiguous. He says that Brown Code should be made clearer. We can agree with Hentoff’s point that the penalty-bearing provisions of Brown University are vague. The Brown code should be made clearer so that the students and teachers applying for admission or employment at Brown will know what they are getting into. Gregorian’s commitment to free speech and condemnation of racism and homophobia are well known from the letter to the editor.

The case of Doug Hann is quite complex in that it exists on a fine line between hateful speech and hateful speech that confronts and insults others. Hann crossed the line between merely freedom of speech and hateful speech that directly confronted and insulted other undergraduates. Freedom of Speech is necessary, but allowing hateful speech that directly confronts and insults others tends to worsen the overall situation for minority groups. It is oftentimes impossible or dangerous for minority members to try to respond to hate speech directed at them. People need protection from hate speech. If we care about the quality of life, we have to be in favor of some form of censorship of freedom of speech. Many campuses are noticing a rise in the number of incidents of hate-ridden speech directed at minorities, gays, lesbians and others in the last few decades.

Campus racism through hate-ridden speech is a major concern for educators and university officials. In the past we have also heard of situations where minority enrollment dropped sharply in the wake of highly publicized incidents of campus racism. If Brown University had not taken any action it would have faced a similar situation. Gregorian’s action to punish Hann can be supported; however he could have been less strict i.e. he could have dismissed Hann for a semester instead of expelling him for good. Everyone has made mistakes, especially young adults. They should be given a chance to correct their mistakes.

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