Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Emory Free Expression Committee Protects Pro-Trump Chalking

Back in March, I commented on "two tales of free speech at Emory". The first was an opinion by the university's "Standing Committee on Open Expression", which affirmed the right of pro-Palestinian protesters to put up an "Israeli apartheid" display (notwithstanding reports from Jews that it made them feel uncomfortable, offended, or threatened) and consequently sanctioned student vandalism of the display. The second related to pro-Donald Trump "chalking" on campus, and reports of students demanding that the university investigate and sanction the authors.

The open expression committee has now issued an opinion on that case as well, and it likewise affirms the right of Donald Trump supporters on campus to chalk in favor of their preferred candidate (notwithstanding potential feelings of discomfort, offense, or threat by, among others, Latino students).

Both of these outcomes strike me as exactly right, and while I might quibble with bits and pieces of some of the analysis, that's really not relevant. Students have the right to present controversial, offensive, or even hateful ideas. That doesn't mean we must or should stand silent or awestruck against hateful speech, it just means that our remedy should come in the form of challenging it rather than obstructing it, blocking it, vandalizing it, or otherwise censoring it.

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