University Governance and Campus Speech

Abstract

Hate speech, understood broadly, is any form of expression intended to arouse hatred or contempt toward members of a particular social group. When university administrators have reason to believe that a planned speaking event on campus may feature hate speech (at least in the eyes of some), how should they respond? In this paper I address this question as it arises for Canadian universities. I argue that, where the regulation of campus speech is concerned, the right course of action for university administrators is nearly always to do absolutely nothing. They will have reason to become actively involved only in order to ensure that a speaking event proceeds safely, or when it threatens to disrupt the functioning of the university, or when it is itself threatened with disruption by protesting groups. In those instances the justification for intervention will be to protect and facilitate speech, not to shut it down.

Author's Profile

L. W. Sumner
University of Toronto, St. George Campus

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2021-03-22

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