Example Of The Result Of Speech Codes essay example

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"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging freedom of speech, of the press, or the right of the people peacefully to assemble and to petition the government for the redress of grievances". This is the First Amendment - possibly the most powerful words in American history because it guarantees American citizens their natural rights under the supreme law of the land. The First Amendment gives American citizens the freedom of religion, peaceful assembly, speech and press. With this simple law, people can speak their innermost thoughts without fear of government intervention.

But this amendment raises an important and troubling issue. What if this glorious right causes other people fear or shame? Throughout the years, the Supreme Court has restricted certain kinds of speech to protect the American citizens. One kind of restricted speech is libel, which is a written lie. In a case of Sullivan vs. the New York Times, the result of the case established that people who are in the public eye need to live a higher standard of life and only if they could prove that the article written about them is a lie could something be done. Another kind of restricted speech is treason.

Treason is the act of aiding an enemy of the United States in the time of war. This is forbidden and the Constitution gives Congress the right to punish people who take part in treason. Congress has also passed laws restricting speech that criticizes the government. Sedition, which is words, and language that encourage people to rebel against the government, is also prohibited. Another kind of speech that is restricted is any speech that would promote a clear and present danger. Congress has passed laws against any kind of language that can prevent chaos.

For example, screaming 'fire' in a crowded dark movie theatre. This kind of speech was restricted because in 1919, in the case of Schenck vs. the United States, the general of the American Socialist party sent out pamphlets to men who were eligible for the army that were critical of the war effort. At the trial, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes asked whether the words created a clear and present danger. No proof showed that the words actually persuaded anyone to evade the draft and Schenk's conviction was upheld. However, this case set boundaries for the clear and present danger. Years later in 1937 to narrow down the idea of a clear and present danger, in the case of Brandenburg vs. Ohio, the court declared that in order for something to be a clear and present danger, the person's words must have been meant to encourage violence or chaos.

Another kind of speech that is restricted is slander. Slander is a verbal lie. Obscenity is also speech that is restricted. It is something sexually indecent and highly offensive - something "your mother wouldn't let you say" (Silverman).

In 1957, there was a case of Roth vs. the United States and Sam Roth who was a publisher of magazines and books was indicted for using the mail to advertise and distribute material with sexual content. Resulting from this case, the Court determined that possession or distribution of obscene materials was lawful and that obscene speech was not protected, thus prohibited. Following the case, another one took place in 1973 of Miller vs. California. Marvin Miller was convicted under the California obscenity laws for distributing illustrated books of sexual nature. This case established the 'three-pronged test', which gave guidelines of what kind of speech was obscene and that that kind of speech could be regulated by the state (Hunter). Recently and more frequently, the University of California has been shaken by incidences of protests against different racial and ethnic groups.

One reason for this problem is that the campuses around the country have become extremely diversified. Students are finishing themselves sharing classes, dorms and activities with many people who differ from them in race, sexual orientation, ethnicity and socio-economic classes. Unfortunately this diverse sharing of culture has opening the doors for students and faculty to express personal prejudices openly. Cases of verbal harassment have started to make their way into the courts and onto newspapers. College administrators have started to devise ways to stop this controversy. One way in which they have tried to solve the problem is with speech codes.

These codes are rules and guidelines of what may and may not be spoken on college campuses. College campuses around the country have implemented speech codes, hoping to combat the problems that result from free speech. However, all of the speech codes that have been applied have violated the First Amendment. For example, in 1989 the University of Michigan issued a code that forbade speech that "creates an intimidating, hostile or demeaning environment or victimizes an individual on the basis of race".

The University distributed a handbook with examples of forbidden speech. A graduate argued that the code infringed on his ability to teach and he challenged the speech code. He brought it to court and the code was invalidated by the District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, while rules that the code was vague and broad (University of Michigan Wire). In 1991, another case erupted against the University of Wisconsin.

Trying to fight the hate speech problem they made a speech code that said "sanctions would be applied to speech that was racist or discriminatory on the basis of ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation that created a hostile or intimidating campus environment". This code was struck down as unconstitutional and rejected. The courts said that the code only covered 'fighting words' (Eliot). Another example of the result of speech codes is in 1994. Donald Silva who was an instructor at the University of New Hampshire was disciplined for making a classroom statement that compared focus to sex. Silva sued the University, claiming that the classroom was a 'market place for ideas' - Silva won (Eliot).

In 1995, Stanford implemented a speech code which declared that speech that was intended to insult individuals, addressed directly to individuals who it insults or makes use of fighting words is not allowed on campus (Kazak). The code was challenged by a group of speeches and once again the Courts ruled that the code was invalid because it restricted speech. In 1991, at the University of Connecticut, a student was ordered to move off campus because of a sign she posted on her dorm room making fun of "preppies,"bimbos,"men without chest hair" and "homos". After a federal lawsuit was threatened, the student was allowed to move back on campus and the university revised its code of conduct (Kazak). Examples of the speech codes and its aftermath can go on forever.

With this knowledge and this proof, that almost all the time the speech codes violate the First amendment, the speech code that we have created is one that would help combat hate speech but realistically, it would violate the First Amendment. Colleges are the step before the real world. Many opponents of speech codes feel that colleges are a market place of ideas and that students need to be open to the prejudices and views that people exhibit. Since each college is an enormous institution with thousands of students, speech codes are very susceptible in being overturned - all it takes is one student who feel that the code is violating his or her First Amendment. Speech Code: I. There should be no obscene speech that criticizes another person or is used to form a conspiracy. II.

No individual can produce, sell or advertise any pictures, objects or posters that discriminate against another person on the basis of race, color, religion or sex in any way.. There should be no speech that forces a threat on an individual's academics. IV. There should be no speech that creates an intimidating environment for an V. individual. VI. There should be no verbal behavior that victimizes and individual on the basis of race, color, religion or sex in any way.

This speech code would help limit hate speech, however this would never be passed through the courts. Each of these codes violates the First Amendment in some way and takes away the natural rights that each American citizen possesses. In a case of United States vs. Eich man, the Supreme Court Justice Brennan said that. ".. if there is a bedrock principal underlining the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable". (Hunter).

This is the fundamental idea in speech codes - they limit ideas that are offensive to people - that action violates the First Amendment. We can implement this speech code, but just like all the others there is a very high chance that the courts will strike it down as unconstitutional. Not being pessimists, but speech codes essentially do not work. However, there are other alternatives in combating hate speech.

We must speak out against racist, sexist, homophobic and other biases and they must react promptly and firmly to acts of harassment. We must create forums and raise awareness on all these issues. Speech codes are not the answers for the problems on the University of California campuses. There is no clear answer on how to combat hate speech. Hate speech is constantly a controversy - the United States government continuously has debates on what violates the First Amendment and what does not.

However, there are ways to start curing the problem slowly, and it lies in the hands of the students and faculty who care.