Campuses Review Hate Speech

Feb. 20, 1998

Campuses Review Plans on Hate Speech Incidents

Representatives from 12 Twin Cities colleges and universities used a day-long seminar on Feb. 19 at UW-River Falls to review their plans for dealing with hate speech incidents.

Leading the seminar was Dorothy Siegel, vice president-emeritus of student affairs at Towson State University. Siegel is nationally recognized for her work establishing the Campus Violence Prevention Center at Towson and her extensive writings on dealing with hate speech and other campus incidents.

Participaing in the seminar with UW-RF were teams from Augsburg College, Bethel College, Carleton College, the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University, the College of St. Catharine, Concordia University, Hamline University, Macalester College, St. Olaf College and the University of St. Thomas.

Coordinating the seminar was UW-RF Dean of Students Roger Ballou, who said the institutions were seeking ways to balance free speech rights while maintaining a hospitable environment.

"We share a common view of a university experience," Ballou explained of the schools. "We are institutions that want to improve the quality of the human experience. We want students to experience free inquiry and intellectual rigor, and we want our campuses to be a hospitable place."

The campuses reviewed or drafted their policies on dealing with episodes of hate speech. This included determining the extent of the incident, mounting an administrative response, assisting those injured by the event, and emphasizing the use of education to defuse the incidents.

UW-RF Chancellor Gary A. Thibodeau noted that hate speech is the use of words as weapons of assault.

He told the participants that the First Amendment "protects all forms of discourse, including words that are offensive. We must be open to speech, even if we find it personally repugnant."

Thibodeau said the teams should explore ways to ensure that students can effectively find information that will help them to rebut hate speech as it occurs.

"Increasing the amount of speech may be the best answer; more words rather than fewer," Thibodeau advised.

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