Harvard Law students have started a campaign to drop the historic seal of Harvard because it is tied to an 18th-century slaveholder. The students organization, Royall Must Fall, have held campus demonstrations demanding the removal of the seal. The three sheaves of wheat on the seal come from the Royall family crest (which raises the compromise possibility of just replacing that portion of the seal attributed to the Royall family). Third-year law student Alexander Clayborne insists that the effort is part of “[o]ur larger goals include decolonization of the law school in general and decolonization of the law school curriculum.”
A student at Georgia Southern University has triggered a controversy that has led to her being fired from her job and charges that she has engaged in hate speech after criticizing protesters at the University of Missouri. Emily Faz, a senior, was critical of social media postings where Missouri protesters objected that the terrorist attacks in Paris were taken too much media attention away from their story.
We recently discussed the allegations of a conservative college newspaper at Dartmouth that “Black Lives Matter” protesters burst into the Baker-Berry Library on the university’s campus in Hanover, New Hampshire and yelled racial epithets and prevented students from studying. The incident was partially caught on videotape and showed protesters abusing students. At the time, I questioned why the university seemed so silent and reticent about allegations of racist statements and even physical threats reported by other students. According to some reports, the university has now acted . . . to apologize to the students who burst into the library, prevented other students from studying, and allegedly yelled racial epithets.
A Florida Appellate Court has ruled in favor of Patrick Neptune, a man who was barred under a clearly unconstitutional ruling from criticizing a local police officer on the Internet. Neptune accused Miramar Police Department Officer Philip Lanoue of first cutting him off in traffic and then following him home and giving him a ticket. After Lanoue sought a stalking injunction, a court issued an order including a bar on his criticizing the officer on the Internet.
Dan Kimmel, 63, may have come up with the worst possible campaign statement for someone running as a candidate for the Minnesota House of Representatives. The Democratic candidate tweeted that the Islamic State group “isn’t necessarily evil” and its members were doing what they thought was best for their community. Not only is the tweet bizarre but it occurred shortly before the massacre that left more than 120 people dead and more than 350 wounded in Paris by ISIS. Kimmel has since resigned from the race.
We have been following the rapid decline of free speech rights in Europe and Canada. Germany has long been the subject of criticism from the free speech movement. The country has long criminalized speech dealing with World War II and the Nazis. While the real benefit of those laws has been questioned given the long existence of a neo-Nazi groups in the country, prosecutors continue to bring troubling charges against those who voice unpopular or obnoxious beliefs in prohibited areas. The latest is Ursula Haverbeck, an 87-year-old German Neo-Nazi grandmother who has been sentenced to 10 months in prison after being found guilty of denying the Holocaust. She does not believe that the Holocaust was real but, rather than leaving the matter to open debate, the Germans are imprisoning her for either not changing her mind or not staying silent about her views.
Free speech advocates are increasingly uneasy about the response of University of Missouri to protests of racism on campus. Some of the incidents described by students are exercises of free speech. Those concerns were heightened with the videotape of a communications professor harassing and trying to get students to “muscle” out a student journalist. This concern was heightened even further by police asking students to report “hateful and/or hurtful” speech. We have been discussing the erosion of free speech on our campuses and the message seemed to invite the type of speech regulation that has been on the rise. Citizens are allowed to say “hurtful” things without being forced to answer for their exercise of free speech. Monitoring and punishing hurtful statements threatens the most basic values of free speech in our universities. For those with controversial views, the police policy must have had the same feel as Mass communications professor Melissa Click calling for a show of “muscle” to target journalists. A complaint was filed by the student journalist against Professor Click who has now resigned her position.