Tag Archives: freedom of expression

Universities Limit the Right to Freedom of Expression

The first amendment is one of the most important and debated facets of our democracy.  It allows us to express our thoughts and feelings in different forms including the right to freedom of  expression, speech, assembly, and petition.  Despite that all of these are protected under the law there a lot of grey areas that create controversy.  Recently there has been debate over whether or not universities should be allow to limit students’ rights to free speech.  Many students feel like their rights are being stripped away from them in a place where they are supposed to be encouraged to embrace their ideals and independence.  With new laws being put in place, allowing universities to restrict rights protected under the first amendment,  there is more controversy than ever.

On October 29th of 2016 a fan at University of Wisconsin-vs.-Nebraska game wore an Obama costume with a noose tied around its neck.  The fan was asked to remove the offensive parts of the costume and agreed.  The debate comes into play if the man had not complied with the university’s request.  Would they have had the right to further pursue the issue?  Although the costume was extremely offensive and could be considered violent and racist, the man was technically exercising his right to freedom of expression.  He was not making any threats nor putting anyone in danger.  Just because the costume is deemed offensive does not mean it is violating the rights protected under the first amendment.  In another case, the University of Missouri expelled a student who published an article in an underground newspaper that contained offensive language.  When the case was brought to court it was ruled, “the mere dissemination of ideas-no matter how offensive to good taste- on a state university campus may not be shut off in the same alone of ‘conventions of decency'”.

Despite the offensive and racist nature of the fan’s costume, it is protected under the first amendment and he is allowed to wear it.  An important thing to remember when it comes to cases like this is that they are all different and need to be handled that way.  Universities need to keep in mind that their institutions are a crucial place for students to express themselves and their belief without restrict by what is deemed offensive.

Works Cited

Nowicki, Jenn. “Can Universities Restrict Free Speech On Campus?” Generation Progress. N.p., 15 Mar. 2013. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

“State of the Law: Speech Codes.” FIRE. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

Censorship and Education

The 1st amendment of the United States Constitution addresses the issues of freedom of expression and the limitations government has when it comes to acting against the expressions of the public. According to the first amendment, government is not allowed to show  bias towards a religion or belief and are not allowed to stop a person’s right to speak out about their values .  One of the limiting powers  of the government is that they are allowed to censor media and information from the public if under the proper context.  Does censorship  desecrate the freedom of expression? Or does it not hinder it at all?

 

According to  an article entitled “ National Coalition Against Censorship” By the NACA censorship is defined as “ suppression of an image or idea because it offends or disturbs someone, or they disagree with it.  This states that media can be censored if it offends or bothers someone, however this raises another question. What are the limits when it comes to offensive or disturbing material? And how do they decide if something needs to be censored or if it should stay?   The IRA defines the difference in the following quote “   There is an important distinction between  selection based on professional guidelines and what censorship actually entails.  “ The goal of censorship  is to remove, eliminate or bar particular materials or methods.  The goal of professional guidelines is to provide criteria for  the selection of those materials or methods”.

 

Censorship also plays a  role in the education system.  An article entitled “ The Student’s Right to  Read”  by the NCTE, states that “ students and parents have the right to demand that education today keep students in reality with the world outside the classroom.  Since this a right of the parents and student why are books that are deemed to realistic or vulgar removed from the educational system.  Another thing to consider is the responsibilities of an english teacher. The specific responsibilities are highlighted  as the following “  Literature classes  should reflect the cultural contributions  of many minority groups in the United States”     
Censorship does not just impact literature in school but also can hinder the quality and impact on education.  How this affects students  is shown in the following excerpt  “   Censorship leaves students with  an inadequate and  distorted  picture of the ideals, values and problems in their culture.  Writers and authors have alot of power when it comes to the ability to impact students when it comes to sensitive or emotional content. Writers can distort or inaccurately portray a culture or value or they can paint an overly graphic image of a culture or idea.  Censorship can protect the public from sensitive media but in the end does it have a negative effect on students when they enter the real world? That’s for you to decide for yourself, as for me, I think it affects us more than we realize.

Are Free Speech And Hate Speech The Same?

Just this past October at a football game between the University of Wisconsin and Nebraska, a fan at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was spotted with a costume of the 44th president, Barack Obama, with a noose tied around its neck. Though the school wasn’t pleased and had the fan remove certain offensive parts from the costume, they stated it “was an exercise of the individual’s right to free speech.”. So this brings up the question, are hate speech and actions protected under the boundaries of the first amendment? The short answer is yes, but how far can it go? The first amendment states that speech that will incite violence is not protected under the Constitution. Sometimes hate speech won’t fall under this category, even though it may offend people or you may not agree with it. In an article that talks about the debate between hate speech and free speech it brings up the idea that hate acts but not speech may be regulated under the law. In an example from the article, a Minnesota boy burned a cross in an African American families lawn and charges were brought up on him by the family. He was prosecuted under a law in Minnesota that made it illegal to burn a symbol of a certain race or religion likely to incite resentment. This case later reached the Supreme Court, where the law was later determined unconstitutional and hindered the boy’s first amendment rights. The law focused on the meaning of the message and not his actions which is why it was found unconstitutional. He was, however, held criminally responsible for damaging property. There was another incident that happened on the campus of the University of Oregon. One of the professors at the university invited some students to a costume party. She was found wearing what a costume some found offensive though it was not her intention to be offensive. The school’s policy on this type of issue was that if something was found to cause enough of an uproar at the university it may result in suspension from the university for students and staff. The real dilemma of this story is if the university is in the right, pertaining to the first amendment, with its rules. The answer is the university is it’s own institution and can make it’s own rules even though some may push the boundary of the Constitution. The debate between hate and free speech had raged since the beginning of the United States, and it shows no sign of stopping. I believe, though I may not agree with it, that hate speech is constitutional and is protected by the first amendment. But we need to be watchful, to stop it when it crosses the boundaries  of the first amendment.   

The Confederate Flag: A Symbol of the Past or Present in Schools?

The Civil War ended 150 years ago, however the issue of the Confederate flag has not disappeared with the war. The Confederacy is well alive in not only history textbooks, but on clothing, and flags. This brings up the big question; Can public schools ban the Confederate flag on their campuses? Does banning the Confederate flag violate the First Amendment? First to argue against the issue was Christiansburg High School in Virginia. A group of students began a demonstration when a student was punished for wearing a t-shirt with the Confederate flag on it. The students disagreed with the punishment, so they protested.  The Washington Post described the incident as a “peaceful student demonstration”. Those students who protested ended up getting suspended. The First Amendment includes Peaceable Assemblies, meaning that the people must be allowed to meet, protest, and march. The students at Christiansburg High School did just that, and did not show any harm to any persons nearby. One might say their t-shirts and flags are protected by Freedom of Speech, which explains how citizens are allowed to express themselves. But are there limits? Do those rights stop when students enter the school grounds?

In another case at Lakeside Middle School, a student showed up to school wearing a jacket with a Confederate flag on it. He was asked to remove the jacket, and when he refused, was suspended multiple times. The student ended up taking the case to court. Judge William B. Traxler Jr. ruled for the school district, basing his decision on three U.S. Supreme Court decisions: Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District in 1969, Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser in 1986, and Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier in 1988. Tinker v. Des Moines, and Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser ruled student’s rights are not as flexible as adult’s rights would be in other settings. Lastly, in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier it was ruled that school administrators can’t punish students because they don’t agree with their expression, but they can if it is disrupting the school or people in the school.

The issue of the Confederate flags in public schools is it’s a very grey area. There are lots of technicalities that go along with the issue; the history of the school’s racial problems, violence, disruption and so on. It depends on the school and the students inside of it. Students are backed with the First Amendment to some extent, but there are limits in a school zone. Although, the school itself has to think about protecting other students in the school, as long as no person or their rights are harmed; if a student wishes to wear a t-shirt with the Confederate flag, they should be allowed to. The First Amendment protects them under Freedom of Speech, Peaceable Assembly and Symbolic Speech. If there were to be a clear obscenity, fighting words, or danger of other students, that student would not have their rights protected and would have to follow what the school says. In conclusion, students should be allowed to wear the Confederate flag in schools, as long as it isn’t disrupting the school or students in anyway or bringing up bad history that the school has.