Campus Codes and Speech Challenges

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In the article “Campus Speech Restrictions”, Martin Golding argues that even if campus codes that are well-crafted, there are signification problems on the creation and applications of such codes. He proposes that campus codes can unfairly incriminated people who are not guilty of such charges. Further, he also brings up about words sounding like a term that could violate the codes and what that would be considered. And lastly, he brings up that it is not only the words being said that disrupts the market of free exchange of ideas but also the ideas that could have a wounding effect on a group. Based on these, he concludes regulating all speech would be impossible and intolerable. That there are also other ways in which hate speech can be minimized.

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Golding acknowledges that “fighting words” and slurs do disrupt the exchange of free ideas and campus codes would help to prevent this – however it does not protect people who are wrongly charged with speech offense. There are multiple cases in which people were accused of discriminatory harassment and had to prove themselves not guilty in which some cases their names were cleared or some were unsettled. It might not sound that bad but those who were wrongly accused are now branded as sexists, racists, etc. Being just accused of speech offense could do so much harm on a person’s reputation. An example of this would David Howard, who had to resign due to him not watching his words properly – when he said “niggardly” which sounds like the term “nigger” but in fact these have two completely differently meanings. Even though he did not violate any speech offense, this accusation still affected his career and cause him to lose his career. Golding mentions how the code has to consider words/terms that sounds like a slur or speech and what if the speaker intended to call them in such way. If the codes main purpose is to protect people from offensive speech, people will find ways to go around that rule. An example would be a man calling a woman “witch” rather than a “bitch”. Would this not be a violation of the code or would it be considered an epithet?

To rightfully prosecute a person – we would need to investigate the intentions of the speaker. Investigating a speaker’s intention is problematic because (1) there is chances for misinterpretation and (2) it is difficult to prove that there was no intent to harm the person. “Fighting words” and slurs do disrupt the exchange of free ideas, Golding notes that it is not only words, slurs and epithet that prevent the exchange of free ideas but actually it is the ideas itself are wounding to groups. An example would be the idea that black people compared to other groups are mediocre. It is not only words that communicate hate to groups but also the ideas that stereotypes them. Therefore, ideas themselves should be punishable as well.

Although hate speech does silence the voice of the receiver and prevents the exchange of ideas, Golding says that placing punishment is not the right action. Rather it should be rebutted against that idea – that regulating all types of speech would inhibit the exchange of free ideas as well as discussions. That there are holes within the campus codes that need to be considered for it to be fair for everyone. He also mentions that as an institution of learning, professors should be educating students on limitations of what can and can’t be said as well as to demonstrate where discussions can lead to revelations of the truth.

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