As discussed in the Student Senate meeting on Monday, Feb. 10, should banning hate speech from a freedom of expression resolution be considered an infringement on First Amendment rights?

Jack Green, Op-Ed Writer

College Democrat view

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” is a quote famously attributed to the French philosopher Voltaire. Voltaire, like many great thinkers of his time and ours, agreed that free speech is important to furthering society even when the views being spoken may not reflect your own. There is a clear societal value in being able to debate public policy, individual ideology and everything in between, exposing others to a new way of thinking. 

I believe the questions we should be asking ourselves are: What is the societal value of providing space for hate speech? In what ways will I leave a conversation a better person after being exposed to racism, homophobia or anti-Semitism? Will your outdated comments on Islam force me to think critically? Will your negative impressions of trans people enlighten me? The answers to these questions are: there is none, there are no ways, no and no, respectively. Hate speech has no place on a college campus.

On the subject of constitutionality, it must be noted that as a private institution, Roger Williams University has no obligation to protect our First Amendment rights. Our university has the obligation to foster an environment that will be conducive to learning. Providing a space in which its students can freely learn without fear of being targeted for their beliefs is a more effective way to meet that obligation than ensuring people can spew hate freely.

As an aside if you hold hurtful views, you should accept the fact that people will want to confront you for those views. In the same way you have the right to speak whatever colonial-era views you hold, others have the right to express their disdain for your speech. When you are feeling targeted by others expressing their feelings toward your beliefs or your support for a candidate whose platform threatens their safety, you have to stop and think about how those beliefs make others feel like they are being targeted as well.