SAMILOW | Free and Open Discourse is an Indispensable Feature of Good Education
In the wake of the sustained protests and civil unrest over the summer, the dormant debate regarding “hate speech” has reemerged on Cornell’s campus. Over the summer, students called for the dismissal of Prof. William A. Jacobson, Law, for an article he wrote critiquing the Black Lives Matter movement as well as for the termination of Prof. David Collum, Chemistry, for a series of offensive comments and jokes he made on his personal Twitter account. While the University has tepidly defended the rights of its faculty to express their private views, it is abundantly clear that many students and faculty, and indeed the editorial board of this newspaper, believe that the University should play some role in regulating “hate speech.”
This should come as no surprise to anyone who has spent time at Cornell or any other university. Last year, a survey of college students conducted by the Knight Foundation revealed that a majority of college students believe that it is sometimes acceptable to “shout down” speakers to prevent them from talking and over forty percent do not believe the First Amendment should cover “hate speech.”
Their reasoning is simple — the emotional wellbeing of students and their right to feel comfortable is more important than the right to free speech. They see it as decidedly inhumane to value a professor’s right to publish provocative articles over the security and comfort of those offended by that speech.