Administration cannot limit free speech, for better or for worse2 min read
March 29, 2018
De Anza College should not and could not impose limits on free speech to discourage white supremacists and hate preachers on campus.
On Nov. 9, 2017, a man carrying a sign listing kinds of sinners hated by God, accompanied by two companions, preached his cruel version of Christianity to a crowd that gathered to protest his message.
At the beginning of this quarter, students saw posters advertising white supremacist hate groups Identity Evropa and American Renaissance, defined as such by the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center.
These instances fit into a larger picture. The Anti-Defamation League reported that incidents of white supremacist propaganda on college campuses in the U.S. have more than tripled since September of 2016.
In January 2016, De Anza Students gathered more than 500 signatures on an online petition urging De Anza’s administrators to regulate hate speech after visits on campus from hate preachers.
It is frightening that a petition like this received this much support, and I hope that De Anza will continue to ignore the push to limit free speech. As soon as we give De Anza the power to silence us because what we say is offensive or hateful, they will have the power to twist the definition of what is offensive over time.
Would you want to go to a campus where you can be arrested or removed for saying something that is considered hateful? Would you have the power to stop De Anza from twisting the definition of hate speech into something ruthlessly strict?
According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, “the overwhelming majority of free speech is protected by the First Amendment,” except for “speech that incites reasonable people to immediate violence,” harassment, true threats, intimidation, obscenity and defamation, which have been limited by Supreme Court decisions.
Because De Anza receives taxpayer dollars and is integrated with the United States Government, it does not have the right to limit any speech that does not fall under the strict definitions listed above, and they will get sued if they try.
In 2005, the FHDA district paid an undisclosed amount to settle a free speech lawsuit by anti-abortion protesters.
Although De Anza cannot limit hate speech, it can combat it. Our Equity and Engagement Division could run workshops teaching students how to face hate speech reasonably and effectively.
Ultimately, the responsibility to combat hate speech falls on us, not the state. Either ignore them, or equip yourself to debate them. Don’t run and cry to De Anza; take the bigots power away yourself.