Gregory Lu is a student at the University of California San Diego who felt that all of the coverage over the acquittal of Jose Inez Garcia Zarate was missing sufficient consideration for his victim, Kate Steinle. Much of the coverage turned on the status of illegal immigrants like Zarate and their dreams in coming to the country. Accordingly, Lu posted 150 posters with her face and the words “She had dreams too.” The fliers were immediately taken down and Lu was informed that he was to report to the Office for the Prevention of Harassment & Discrimination due of an “online incident report.”
Lu says that he was followed around as he put up the fliers and the UC San Diego College Democrats called the posters “racist propaganda” targeting the “undocumented community” in a statement. It denounced Lu for posters that were “displays of hate.”We have been discussing how faculty around the country are supporting the abandonment of free speech principles to bar speakers and speech with which they disagree. The most extreme form of this rejection of classical liberal values is the antifa movement. We have seen faculty physically attack speakers or destroy messages that they oppose. We have also seen faculty physically attacked and intimidated. In some of these incidents, other faculty have supported students in shutting down speakers or fellow academics (here and here). As various schools have shown, these speech codes have placed higher education on a slippery slope of speech control. What constitutes hate speech or microaggressions is a determination fought with subjectivity. Indeed, the standard often turns on how words are received rather than how they are meant. Moreover, the threat of being investigated as a possible racist is enough to silence most students. Indeed, Lu told the site College Fix that the group Right Wing West has left its members anonymous out of fear of being targeted by faculty and students. This is clearly a political statement and protected speech. Calling in a student to answer for such postings is a chilling and inappropriate action. Instead, the office should ask those complaining to satisfy a minimal burden of proof that such posters constitute hate speech or proscribed conduct. The intolerance shown in this matter were those labeling such posters and racist and hate speech. If these reports are accurate, the University should be acting to reinforce the principles of free speech rather than declining comment and calling in Lu to answer for his exercise of free speech.