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Analysis of How Universities Should Define Protected Speech

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Universities should encourage free expression and free inquiry on both students and faculty; they should be able to create and transmit knowledge of their own without fear of judgment. If limits are being placed on a students freedom of expression or on the extent to which a teacher can educate, a true understanding of today’s society will be skewed. Teachers today are the educators of the free world and they should be allowed to educate students without boundaries or limitations. Professors should share through their teaching abilities the essentials of the mission to scope for free expression. Permission for speakers to communicate their ideas should be encouraged,even if the speech is considered hateful.

No student should doubt their ability to speak their mind thoroughly to make their viewpoints present. Universities must encourage engagement between students for a better understanding of broader views and opinions that fuel open- minded discussions. Students should be exposed to all sorts of minds on and off campus. Faculty must not condemn difficult ideas but give the speakers the right to express the thoughts of the next generation of leaders and citizens for a better understanding of society. Universities are places to debate and discuss controversial issues. People learn best by focusing on their education and being exposed to new ideas and other individuals’ opinions. It’s crucial for a proper citizen education. A person’s ability to expand and learn from those ideas does not steam from any form of bias or favorability of any race, ethnicity, religion, nor sexual orientated thoughts. People learn with education and don’t withhold information. Even from the most negative person, there is a lot to be learned and just because one doesn’t agree with a person’s views doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be heard or listened to.In the book, In Our Defense, the court case “Freedom of Speech: Missouri Knights of Klu Klux Klan v. Kansas City” demonstrates how protected speech was defined between Kansas city and the Klu Klux Klan. The case was started because the Klu Klux Klan believed that it was within their First Amendment rights to broadcast their television show Race and Reason on the Kansas City Public Access Channel, but many people in Kansas City, especially African American communities, felt that this was a violation of their rights and that this was the Klu Klux Klan’s way of exposing people to their propaganda.

The Klu Klux Klan argued that their ideas were not considered to be a “clear and present danger” to anybody and that their speech could be interpreted in any way people want to see it, but the surrounding communities argued that they simply did not want to watch it. The Supreme Court introduced the “clear and present danger” test during the case, in which it states “ the idea that government cannot punish speech unless it creates a clear and present danger…” (Ellen-Alderman 28). This ruling strengthens the Klu Klux Klan’s argument by verifying what they had previously stated, they were not presenting any kind of “clear and present danger” (Ellen-Alderman 28) to any group or persons by airing their television show on the Kansas City Public Access Channel for public access. The Supreme Court did not know how to classify this court case because it questions how to determine “protected speech” and therefore the case was dropped. Many argue that though the case was dropped, the government still was preventing the group from using their First Amendment right. There was absolutely no evidence of a “clear and present danger” correlating what was said on television for entertainment purposes to what was going on in the surrounding area because the clan was not directly talking to one specific group or person. The clan was simply voicing their opinion on live television –which they have every right to do- under the First Amendment.

Though their ideas may not be the same as one’s own, one can still learn and better understand their thought process and what makes them who they are. Universities define protected speech by following a set of policies called speech codes that prohibit any groups/individuals form of free speech that disrespects or offends a certain group/ person. Free expression still has limits,but how should a university determine how to approach protected hate speech? And if that behavior violates any policies the university has implemented? This idea is often based off of intent of a person and whether or not it is there intent to express a hateful speech/idea, or to threaten and intimidate other people. When an individual’s behavior strongly appears to threaten or target another individual’s free expression, that is clearly intentional and is considered a hate crime. To clarify, not all hate speech is considered to be a “clear and present danger”, for a university to determine what is and is not acceptable “behavior”, the persons act must not violate any speech codes that the University presently has enforced. Though this seems like a good option, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) disagrees. They are a national organization focused on protecting citizens rights and freedoms under the Constitution of the United States. The ACLU doesn’t support “speech codes” that universities are using today and believes that they are in direct violation of the First Amendment.

The ACLU believes “all campuses should adhere to First Amendment principles because academic freedom is the bedrock of education in a free society”(ACLU 2). This quoteexpresses the organization’s viewpoint on how students should be able to use the Freedom of Speech and foreshadows that exercising one’s rights is a fundamental part of becoming educated in today’s society.In conclusion, debates on what is right and what is wrong will continue to happen with the thriving growth of opinions and different backgrounds of people from different places. Universities should not define protected speech by implementing speech codes, But they should encourage students to speak their minds. Permission for speakers to speak should be encouraged, including hateful speech. No student should doubt their ability to speak their mind thoroughly to make their viewpoints present. Universities must encourage engagement between students for a better understanding of broader viewpoints and opinions adding light or heat to discussions.If limits are being placed on a students freedom of expression or on the extent to which a teacher can educate, a true understanding of today’s society will be skewed. Without voices to be heard, people wouldn’t learn nor be able to distinguish right from wrong. Without bad people, there cannot be good people.

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