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The Issue of Free Speech and Hate Speech on Campus

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In many universities, free speech is a controversial topic. Campuses such as UCLA and Berkley argue that they are a free-speech campus yet later they are suspending students for their actions. Some board members agree with the consequences and say there needs to be a line drawn while other university board members disagree and argue that free speech shouldn’t have a limit. On campuses across the nation, there have been issues with students not being able to express themselves without consequences, students are being silenced and silencing their peers.

Nowadays students on campus feel threatened to speak on their beliefs or wear what they want since it has only led to punishments and even arrest. At UCLA students threw a party that structed a controversy. Professor Shaun Harper said, “UCLA is a public institution that is bound by the First Amendment; as such, it has no written policy banning students from wearing offensive costumes”. Nevertheless, administrators at the campus suspended a fraternity for holding a “Kanye Western theme party, where attendees dressed like the famous rapper and his celebrity wife, Kim Kardashian”. This cause students to protest against the school since what this fraternity did was considered a form of racism. However, they only got a suspension which Students thought was enough, some wanted the students expelled, but others thought that the suspension was unfair since nothing was written in the UCLA handbook stating that this was not allowed.

At UC Berkeley students protested against guest speaker Milo Yiannopoulous who was brought by a republican group. UC Berkeley wanted to create a balance between students’ frights and free speech while some administrators agreed that Mr. Yiannopoulous uses hate speech others agreed that he deserved respect. “This sent two important messages: that the University was standing up for the right of the Berkeley College Republicans to invite an unpopular speaker to campus, and that the University was condemning Mr. Yiannopoulos’ hateful ideas.” Others suggest that what students need is further education on free speech since there seems to be confusion with free speech and hate speech. Sharon Ormond Suggest “Students need to understand that when hearing speech, they don’t like, they can ‘respond with their point of view or they can walk away and not listen.’ Since the students at Berkeley acted in a violent matter with Yiannopoulous speech they weren’t practicing the first amendment they were contributing to hate speech, insulting and broke the peaceful protest into a violent matter.

On February 7th, Eight UCI students were arrested for Interrupting and protesting ambassador Michael Oren’s speech about U.S Israeli relations. Some students wanted the UCI Muslim Student Union banned for interrupting Oren’s speech repeatedly. Chuck DeVore a Republican assemblyman said, “It’s not contributing anything to the value of campus.” This brought up many problems for the university some saying that doing so would be a violation of our first amendment while others saying that what the Muslim union did was a form of hate speech and should have consequences. This brought up the question is heckling hate speech since what the students did was not considered hate speech, they however others thought otherwise. While arguments where disputed back and forth there was no final answer executive director of the Los Angeles branch of the Council on American-Islamic relations Hussam Alyoush said, “The First Amendment was never intended to be exclusively polite and courteous.” Defending what the Muslim student union did yet those engaged were arrested. Guest int the crowd who want to see Oren couldn’t believe the university was allowing the Muslim union students to act in such matters with their protest and wanted them arrested.

The previous experts presented the way universities are distinct with their policies on freedom of speech. Many universities and colleges are struggling to decide what should fall under free speech and hate speech. Since many topics are considered controversial in our generation it is really hard to determine what is covered by our first amendment. “There is no alternative to free speech, because every controversial topic has a substantial group of people who view it as hate speech,” According to Ceci, the Helen L. Carr Professor of Developmental Psychology. “If we define unacceptable speech in terms of topics students say should be banned because they make them feel marginalized or uncomfortable, then we remove all controversial topics from consideration.” Many thought this was wrong because once again the first amendment never talks about the consequences if people feel uncomfortable. The argument comes down to what people want at this point. We cannot make every controversial topic censored just because people feel disturbed or sensitive about it.

Our first amendment is a controversial topic at universities across the nation because it seems that we can’t find the difference between free speech and hate speech. Campuses all over the nation are the ones bringing this to the public’s attention with students writing about their experiences and bring it to the news. Many of the students getting censored are arguing that it’s against their rights while other students prefer to have censorship and consequences. This is a struggling topic for campuses trying to decide what is protected by our first amendment and what is hate speech and the actions they should take upon with the students. While others argue how it is not fair that they are getting arrested for protesting and peaceful marches since they are speaking their minds which many universities encourage. Many universities as well are promoting a free-speech campus are punishing their students for expressing themselves in a certain matter which student find wrong since many universities don’t have these policies written down.

Works Cited

  1. “Irvine Incident Poses Question: Is Heckling Free Speech?” Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom, vol. 59, no. 3, American Library Association, May 2010, pp. 95–98,
  2. Friedersdorf, Conor. “Free Speech on Campus Is Under Attack.” The Atlantic, Atlantic
  3. Kelley, Susan (2018) FREE SPEECH ON CAMPUS. Human Ecology. 46 (2), 12–12. [online]. Available from: Media Company, 4 Mar. 2016
  4. Schlosser, Alan, and Diana Tate Vermeire. “Censoring Free Speech Sets Dangerous Precedent.” ACLU of Northern CA, Daily California, 16 Feb. 2017,
  5. Schlosser, Alan, and Diana Tate Vermeire. “Censoring Free Speech Sets Dangerous Precedent.” The Daily Californian, 14 Feb. 2017,
  6. Whissemore, Tabitha. “A Look at Free Speech on Campus.” Community College Journal, vol. 88, no. 4, American Association of Community Colleges, Feb. 2018, pp. 10–11,

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