The First Amend­ment still ap­plies

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - let­ters@wash­

The May 11 ed­i­to­rial “How to re­spond to nooses on cam­pus” urged “univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tors” to “make crys­tal clear that racist signs, sym­bols and speech are off-lim­its.”

But ban­ning racist speech at a pub­lic univer­sity vi­o­lates the First Amend­ment. When Ge­orge Ma­son Univer­sity at­tempted to do that in 1991, a judge ruled against it, declar­ing, “The First Amend­ment does not rec­og­nize ex­cep­tions for big­otry, racism, and re­li­gious in­tol­er­ance.” Even at a pri­vate univer­sity, ban­ning all racist speech may vi­o­late con­trac­tual aca­demic-free­dom guar­an­tees or free-speech pro­vi­sions in col­lege hand­books. Speech that cam­pus pro­gres­sives and col­lege of­fi­cials view as racist may be viewed as sen­si­ble and non-racist by mod­er­ates or con­ser­va­tives. That is es­pe­cially true on top­ics such as im­mi­gra­tion and af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion, which are some­times viewed as racially charged. These top­ics need to be dis­cussed on cam­pus, even if that of­fends some peo­ple. Hans Bader, Ar­ling­ton


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