College Presidents Say: “Hate Speech Is Not Free Speech”

Eugene Volokh:

But of course there is no hate speech exception to the Free Speech Clause, as the Supreme Court unanimously reaffirmed this year in the Slants case. Private universities aren’t legally bound by this (except in California, where a state law applies Free Speech Clause rules to them); but public universities, such as Texas A&M and UT, certainly are. And while universities aren’t barred from condemning speech they disapprove of, this statement — especially if read by students who aren’t up on First Amendment law — strikes me as suggesting that the universities will actually punish such speech (since it’s not “free speech,” and since it’s not “accepted”). Yet such punishment of “[un]welcome” viewpoints would be unconstitutional.

Of course, in common with most such statements, this one doesn’t even try to define “hate speech,” and the words it uses to describe the concept help show how perilously broad and vague it can be. “Inappropriate messages” are apparently not “accepted if they “are meant to provoke.” Creating hostility is also forbidden; presumably they don’t include all hostility (hostility to President Trump? hostility to alleged racists?), but mean hostility based on race, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, and so on — but that would still cover, say, harsh condemnations of various religious views (Muslim, evangelical Christian, Scientologist, etc.), expression of traditional religious views about homosexuality, and much more (perhaps opposition to “multicutural[ism]”?). “Diversity of thought” they seem to value, but diversity of thought on these subjects appears to be too much (at leaast if it’s “[i]nappropriate” and “meant to provoke”).

And what exactly does “disingenuous misrepresentation of free speech” mean here?