Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Exercising rights isn't always right 

As usual, Eugene Volokh sets the right tone on a campus speech issue. Concerning the Roger Williams University debate he adds,
So the university is trying to stop groups from expressing viewpoints that the university concludes contain "hate" or "create a hostile environment" ... for certain groups -- which presumably means messages that "seriously alarm" groups, "slander" them, or are "sexually, racially, or religiously offensive" (since that's what the University seems to view as "harassment").

Somehow, the university claims that this can coexist with "the right of campus organizations to hold different points of view and to disagree," but obviously there are certain points of view and certain disagreements that the university wants to banish. If you criticize homosexuals -- if you are "anti-Islamic" -- if you express views that the university thinks are "racist" (I wonder exactly what those are) -- you risk defunding, being labeled a harasser (one who creates a "hostile environment"), and, if I read the Student Handbook right, potential discipline and loss of computer access.

This is not, it seems to me, how debate on gay rights, or for that matter on race or on Islam should proceed -- by trying to shut out one set of voices, while supposedly "affirm[ing] the right of campus organizations to hold different points of view and to disagree."

Volokh is more sure that RWU is acting within its rights than I was -- and on this I'd defer to a more knowledgeable legal scholar -- but it is not faithful to the purpose of higher education.