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hate speech?

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Oct 18, 2003

Students for Academic Freedom recount a fairly typical case of campus censorship, this time at a Jesuit university:

Gonzaga University (Spokane, WA) administration officials censored flyers advertising a Young America's Foundation organized lecture because the word "hate" was used on the flyer. The flyer in question featured the topic of guest speaker Dan Flynn's speech, "Why the Left Hates America," which is also the title of his book. The administration first approved the flyer then rescinded the approval after some professors and students complained of the use of the word "hate."

In a conversation with Gonzaga's Director of Student Activities, student organizer Paul Schafer was told that the word "hate" is a strong word and that the students shouldn't hold an event at which a speaker hates someone. The director also told Schafer that many students and faculty members tore down his group's flyers to bring them to the office to make complaints. The director has so far refused to give Schafer the names of the people who tore down the flyers, which is a violation of Gonzaga's posting policy. He then compared the speech title "Why the Left Hates America" to an imaginary Caucasian club talking about how it hates black people.

Clearly the DSA in question is not the brightest crayon in the box, failing as he does to see that hatred is merely the topic of the proposed discussion, and that Flynn and the group that sponsors him deplore the hatred in question anyway. His analogy to "an imaginary Caucasian club talking about how it hates black people" is astonishingly stupid, even for a diversity hack. That said, viewing the incident in the terms of academic freedom has problems of its own. The post continues:

Further erosions of students' free speech occurred when the trustees of Gonzaga University passed new rules on who students can sponsor as a guest speaker on campus. Now the administration must give approval of the topics that speakers will present on campus. According to the new guidelines, university officials may forbid a guest speaker or event if "the speech or event would not constitute a legitimate educational experience or otherwise contribute to the University's mission," leaving the student's expression of thought and diversity of ideas to university bureaucrats.

But shouldn't a university, and a Catholic university above all, have the right to define its mission as narrowly as it wishes, and to reject speakers that it deems harmful to that mission? It's true of course that, in the present and for the foreseeable future, such "mission-focused" censorship will operate, even at most Catholic universities, as a means of silencing or intimidating dissenters from the Leftist orthodoxy. And it's true that such censorship will almost always operate in bad faith, as the censors will rarely make their real convictions (and criteria) public. But for a university that was Catholic in substance and not just in name -- which we must admit is at least a theoretical possibility -- wouldn't the Gonzaga guidelines be an entirely honorable exercise in self-governance?

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