Hate speech and the Constitution
Cal. Senate Judiciary Hearing

The following is full text of public comment by the California Faculty Association presented to the California State Senate Judiciary hearing on October 3, 2017.

The California Faculty Association is committed to protecting academic freedom, including the rights of faculty, students, and staff to engage in debate and public protest; protests, after all, are the oldest form of civic engagement. In fact, many of our CSU faculty, staff, and student activists engage in peaceful protests.

As members of university communities we believe deeply in the free exchange of ideas because that process engages our minds, challenges our received ideas, teaches us judgement, and helps us to achieve wisdom. These values and practices are critical today when a more diverse California population finds itself reflected in a more diverse CSU, “The People’s University”.

Hate speech, unfortunately, has the opposite effect.  It silences our voices and deliberately excludes both specific members and entire groups from the debate. Hate speech shuts down discussion.  Hate speech does not search for wisdom or even make an argument, but rather shouts invective or creates a narrative designed to intimidate others.

CFA stands against white supremacy, racism, and hate speech. We will support and defend all members of our campus communities from racist, sexist, nationalist, homophobic, transphobic, anti-Muslim, and anti-Semitic attacks. We condemn all hate speech and hate crimes on campus and in our surrounding communities.

CFA will continue to fight for the rights of campus communities to remain peaceful and just. We will not back down from protecting faculty, staff, and students and defending the values that make our university system among the best in the nation.

Hate crimes, violence motivated by the group membership of the victim, are clearly out of bounds in any segment of human civilization, much less on our CSU campuses.  However, hate speech, targeting an identity group or an individual based on group membership, contains its own sort of violence and should be condemned in every case on our campuses.

The CSU administration has the moral obligation to condemn hate speech every single time it happens and to act swiftly to protect the safety of any individual students, faculty or staff.  We encourage the CSU administration to treat hate speech and expression as acts of violence that threaten both our academic pursuits and our community of free inquiry.