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Wednesday, June 02, 2004
(Quasi)Racist Speech and Speech Codes at Boalt
[Apologies for the long post. Free speech is something I feel strongly about. Also, numerous people have been writing about this issue, and I would like to gather all the available information together.]
Res Ipsa Loquitur has a post about a controversy I had been following that I thought had blown over. Petty Bourgeois writes about a recent incident at Boalt involving alleged racist speech by a guest lecturer and the University's reaction. That reaction includes:
Petty doesn't have the details on what occurred, but another website has more details.
Eugene Volokh at the Volokh Conspiracy has a post that contained an e-mail from the Boalt Hall administration mentioning an incident of racist speech had occurred and that a policy for acceptable language in class would be drafted. That new policy is what Petty posted.
Eugene's opinion on the announced ban is mixed, but his rough conclusion is that:
What is even more startling is a first hand account of the incident which was subsequently posted by Eugene after he was e-mailed by a Boalt student. Here is the relevant part of the e-mail:
If this is the incident that prompted the speech code, then it seems like an obvious over-reaction. On the other hand, if Boalt is legally allowed to have a speech code (as Eugene argues), then it does not matter what bad reason they use to justify it.
One final note. Eugene has some comments on the wisdom of instituing such a policy:
I oppose speech codes such as this, anyway. It is particularly troubling if the event which prompted Boalt to act was so innocuous, and that students were kept in the dark on what really occurred. If anyone attending Boalt has any more information on this, please send me an e-mail. Also, if anyone with legal expertise has an opinion on prohibitions on professors' conduct in the classroom; I would love to hear more about this. When I return to Berkeley I will follow this up by trying to meet with the professor whose class this occurred in, as well as the Boalt administrators who helped draft this policy.
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