Alexander Lawrence misses a key point in his Oct. 19 article, “Free speech week incites hate.”
A college education isn’t about accumulating facts. We have encyclopedias for that – Google too, for those with the critical thinking skills that are the raison d’etre of colleges and universities. It is through spirited debate with others that one defines, sharpens, and refines one’s ideals and beliefs. If you can’t discuss contentious subjects and opinions without coming to blows on a college campus, where can those conversations take place?
Unconstrained speech lies at the very heart of academic freedom which, according to the US Supreme Court, is “a transcendent value of special concern to the First Amendment.” As Martin Luther King Jr. might have said, a threat to free speech anywhere is a threat to free speech everywhere. And, who is the greater abuser of free speech? The self-serving opportunist who uses it to pander to hatred? Or the self righteous moralist who rushes to silence it?
Russ Merris, graduate student at UC Berkeley during the Free Speech Movement of
1965 and Cal State Professor from 1971 to 2005.