For more than two decades, I taught courses in the philosophy of law encompassing both analytical and ethical jurisprudence. The section on freedom of expression was always one of the liveliest as students grappled with the nature of profound offense; the circumstances, if any, under which speech acts should be proscribed under liberty-limiting principles; and the question of whether a university’s educational mission can provide sufficient grounds for restricting “hate speech.” Those classes have been on my mind lately amidst the current proliferation of accusations that free speech is threatened at colleges and universities and burgeoning legislation that calls for censuring and, in some cases, criminalizing protests and disruptions on campuses.
While the recent legislation has focused on charges of illiberalism in higher education, the issues at the center of the bills often extend beyond the academy. The perspectives these issues have invited in other contexts can inform the work of college and university communities as they come together to safeguard an environment in which the free exchange of ideas can thrive.
Pasquerella, Lynn. (2017). Free Expression, Liberal Education, and Inclusive Excellence. Diversity and Democracy, Spring/Summer 2017, Vol. 20.
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