Good News on the Free Speech Front

Last year, a University of Delaware student was banned from campus and ordered to undergo psychological testing before he could return.  This was the administration's reaction to another student's complaint about certain content on his website, which was described as "racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic."

Now, I have a guess that I would not have thought much of this student's professed opinions, but the first amendment is there to protect speech we don't like from punishment by government bodies such as the state-run University of Delaware.  So it is good to see that the US District Court for Delaware granted this student summary judgment on his free speech claim.

In particular, I was happy to see this:

The court also noted that speech is constitutionally protected when it does not cause a substantial disruption on campus"”even
if an individual student feels so upset by the speech that she feels
threatened by it, and even if university administrators strongly
dislike what is being said. That is, the complaining student's
reaction, together with the administrative trouble involved in dealing
with the situation, was not enough to show a substantial disruption
requiring punishment for Murakowski's protected speech.

This is important.  While it seems odd, college campuses have been the vanguard for testing new theories for limiting free speech over the last several years.  One popular theory is that offense taken by the listener is sufficient grounds to hold speech to be punishable.   This definition kills any objective standards, and therefore is a blank check for speech limitation, something its proponents understand all too well.  It is good to see a higher court very explicitly striking down this standards.

  • dearieme

    Well said. But is it true that the "first amendment is there to protect speech we don't like from punishment by government bodies such as the state-run University of Delaware"? I'd have thought that it's there to protect your speech from the federal government, just as it is there to prohibit an established religion for the federation.

  • Charlie B

    The 14th Amendment to the US Constitution extends the Bill of Rights to all governments in the US and creatures of the governments like the University of Delaware.

  • dearieme

    Thanks, Charlie.

  • Methinks

    universities are very selective in the speech they protect and the speech they punish. If a professor publicly calls for "a million more Mogadishus" or calls workers in the World Trade Center "little Eichmanns", then the Universities are quick to hide behind free speech and intellectual freedom, etc. All other opinions are obviously a danger to society and should be punishable by long sentences in the Gulag.