Fascinating post by vroom’s favorite law professor, UCLA’s First Amendment expert Eugene Volokh, on a situation up at Washington State University.
The factual background, excerpted from the post (internal links omitted):
[i]The College Republicans organized an anti-illegal-immigration event, featuring a “24-foot, chain-link, cyclone fence, later established as a representation of a ‘Wall of Immigration.’” Professor John Streamas showed up, got into an argument with Dan Ryder, a College Republicans member, and in the process called him a “white shitbag.”
Ryder eventually filed a complaint alleging that Streamas subjected him to discriminatory harassment and intimidation, in violation of a university policy. The WSU report held that Prof. Streamas’s insult didn’t violate the policy, but noneteless condemned Prof. Streamas for “immature, intellectual unsophistiated and thoughtless conduct unbecoming any WSU employee and a member of the WSU faculty, in particular.” The university will apparently officially reprimand Prof. Streamas.[/i]
Now, I’m against speech codes generally – this particular code seems as bad as most, although this particular prosecution likely would fall under the “fighting words” exception of free speech in that it was a personally directed insult, and not a statement of general political belief that someone could find offensive. Given Professor Potty-Mouth would likely endorse speech codes generally, it seems he may be hoist by his own petard on this – though probably not with any lasting penalties.
More to chew on, from the WSU Center for Human Rights’ report on the incident:
The potty-mouthed Professor Steamas claims:
that a person of color cannot be racist, by definition, because racism also defines a power differential that is not usually present when a person or color is speaking." [/i]
Professor Volokh’s thoughts on that claim, with which I entirely agree:
Yeah, right. He and others are redefining the term “racism” in a way that’s pretty far removed from its normal meaning – which is racial hostility – so as to give themselves a rhetorical break from the rules they’re imposing on others. And on top of that, he’s applying even his revised definition in a disingenuous way: Whatever may be “usually” so, there surely is a “power differential” between a professor of whatever race and a student of whatever race.