October 04, 2007

Who Deserves Freedom of Speech?

author_cn By C.N. Le 

Freedom of speech and academic freedom are both cornerstones of American society and particularly, of academia. Scholars like myself cannot do our jobs properly without knowing that we have these protections to challenge conventional ideas, take a critical look at social institutions here in the U.S. and around the world, and on occasion, to say things that may challenge the status quo. 

But the boundaries between freedom of speech and hateful speech are not always very clearly marked. That's the area where confusion and contradictions live. Two recent events highlight this delicate balance between maintaining academic freedom and excluding discrimination. 

The first event involved hiring the inaugural Dean for the new law school of the University of California, Irvine (my undergraduate alma mater). As the Los Angeles Times reports, the candidate in question, Erwin Chemerinsky, is a chemerinsky2 nationally-renowned legal scholar and in virtually all respects, is the perfect candidate for the position. 

The problem arose from Chemerinsky’s known "liberal" perspective. Apparently, some more "conservative" constituent groups associated with UC Irvine opposed his candidacy. Upon learning of this opposition, UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake decided to rescind his offer to Chemerinsky. 

Subsequently, scholars at UC Irvine and from around the country blasted Drake's actions as a threat to academic freedom. Shortly after facing this firestorm, Drake decided to reverse course (again) and reinstate his offer to Chemerinsky to be the inaugural Dean of UC Irvine's law school. Nonetheless, Drake still faces the wrath of faculty members over his initial decision to rescind the offer: 

In a conference call with reporters, the chancellor and new dean agreed that Chemerinsky would enjoy absolute academic freedom and would continue to write opinion articles on a wide range of issues, not just legal education as Drake suggested last week. 

"Chancellor Drake reaffirmed in the strongest possible way the academic freedom that I would have, as all deans and faculty members do," Chemerinsky said. He later noted that he was aware that his role as dean also would require him to build a broad base of support. Before he was ousted, the dean had sought conservatives for some slots on his board of advisors. . . . 

free-speech2 Business Professor Richard McKenzie did not think the chancellor could keep his job. "I personally do not see how [Drake] can be effective going forward given the opposition across campus to what he did. I've never seen the faculty so unified." The cabinet of UCI's Academic Senate met in closed session Monday to consider a response to the furor. 

The second controversy over academic freedom centers on Lawrence Summers, former Treasury Secretary under President Bill Clinton and President of Harvard University. Summers was forced to resign in early 2006 after his controversial statements that suggested to some listeners that women were naturally inferior to men when it came to the science disciplines. 

As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, Summers was initially invited to be a speaker at an upcoming dinner event of the University of California Regents, but many faculty members objected to his selection and the offer to Summers was subsequently rescinded: 

"I was appalled and stunned that someone like Summers would even be invited to speak to the regents," said UC Davis Professor Maureen Stanton, who helped put together the petition drive. "I think many of us who were involved in the protest believed that it wouldn't reflect well on the university that he even received the invitation."

The petition called Summers' invitation "not only misguided but inappropriate" at a time when the university is working to diversify its community. "Inviting a keynote speaker who has come to symbolize gender and racial prejudice in academia conveys the wrong message to the University community and to the summers2 people of California," the petition said. 

So, let's review -- in the Chemerinsky case, faculty cried foul because they felt that rescinding the offer to Chemerinsky was a threat to academic freedom. But in the Summers case, faculty supported the effort to rescind the offer to Summers. Therefore, the question becomes, is this a contradiction, perhaps even hypocrisy? 

Why is it okay to support Chemerinsky's right to academic freedom but not Summers'? 

The most obvious answer is that Chemerinsky is perceived as having a liberal perspective while Summers--at least judged by his controversial comments about women in the sciences--is perceived as having a more "conservative" perspective. Since it is a well-established fact that faculty members, particularly in humanities and social science disciplines, are overwhelmingly liberal, one can understand why Chemerinsky found support while Summers did not. 

In my blogs and in my classes, I make no secret of the fact that I consider myself to be quite liberal as well. But I am also a strong believer in freedom of speech for everyone, provided that speech is not blatantly hateful. In that sense, I cannot help but see these two events surrounding Chemerinsky and Summers as nothing less than hypocrisy. 

Freedom of speech is a universal right that belongs to everyone, not just to those with whom you agree. That means that even if someone says something that I completely disagree with, I still support his/her right to express his/her views, again provided that it's not blatantly hateful. 

In this case, I have no problems whatsoever with faculty disagreeing with Summers' views, as I do myself. However, I cannot support the decision to rescind the offer to let him speak based purely on such philosophical or political differences of opinion, especially in light of faculty's support for Chemerinsky's freedom of speech. 

In the San Francisco Chronicle article that I quoted above, Professor Stanton argues that inviting Summers sends the wrong message at a time when the UC system is trying to diversify its community. There is some truth to that statement and indeed, appearances do matter. 

However, I would argue that what would send an even more powerful message in support of diversity would be to allow all opinions, perspectives, and experiences deserve to be heard. 

This is the same valid argument that I and other faculty members have used to promote Ethnic Studies and multiculturalism on campuses all around the country, so why shouldn't it apply to Summers' case? 

Another way to send a strong message in support of cultural diversity would have been to allow Summers to speak and then for faculty and others who disagree with him to directly and publicly challenge him on his views. The same right that allows Summers to suggest that women are inferior gives us the right to suggest that Summers is completely wrong. 

This would again demonstrate that the UC system, academia, and our society in general are founded on principles of critical analysis and confronting prejudicial statements, not selective censorship. 

As my personal heroes such as Martin Luther King Jr. and the Dalai Lama have so acutely observed, when it comes to achieving real, meaningful social justice, we must be inclusive. That is, rather than solely concentrate on trying to address just one form of discrimination or inequality in isolation, we need to recognize that all injustices are interrelated. 

That is, in the words of Dr. King himself, "A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." I interpret that to mean that we cannot pick and choose which groups deserve justice and equality while which groups do not. 

That is why I personally find it very painful when I hear, for example, African Americans express homophobic thoughts against gays and lesbians, or Asian Americans denounce the rights of illegal immigrants to become Americans. 

Just as equality and justice belong to everyone, so too does freedom of speech.

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Comments

we are intitled to our own opinion so their is no right or wrong in most stiuations. but everyone will not agree with everyone. so if u disagree then u just do its not anything wrong with that.

everyone has the freedom of speech, but some people use it to their advantage way to much! it is a right we have but sometimes i believe it is one that some people shouldnt have! many people use it in hateful and unruly ways!

Freedom of speech is very important in a free society you can say what you want as long as you dont fabricate stories.you have a choice of what you want to believe and what you dont want to believe.

I think that we are intitled to are on opinion,so what ever you say is okay as long as you dont change the stories.I think we as people have are on opinion so there is no right are wrong answer.

I think everyone has their own opinion and they are intitled to it. Its just certain ways u say things u should think before u speak and think about there feelings before u say it.

The author believes that everyone should have the freedom of speech. I think everyone as well should have the freedom of speech.

As a citizen to the United States of America, we are all entiltled to our own personnel opinion. We declared the right to freedom of speech and opinion a long time ago. Everyone will not agree all on the same things. What a joy though! If everyone was liked minded wouldnt it be such a boring world!

Everyone has an opinion and should be entitled to say whatever they want as long as they do it in a respectable way. I think it is crazy for someone to tell someone else what they can and cannot say.

I think that sometime because someone one is famous we look at what they say more then anyone else. I also believe in freedom of speech however when you are known to many you have to be care and pick your words out right so people won't take it the wrong way. People are just looking for others to mess up so they can have something to talk about. However if you feel strongly about something you have every right to speak out on it.

They both need to have a chance to speak or give an opinion. Chemerinsky was trying to fill a position with a school and Summers was voicing his opinion. Everyone. Yes, because everyone has a different opinion.

I'll put it like this, everyone can say whatever they want to say because sometimes thats how you learn new things

Freedom of speech and academic freedom are related because both have the same purpose. They both are related in the way that they represent freedom in our opionions. The people reationalized this idea. The author beleives that we all deserve the freedom of speech. I have to agree with the author. We all deserve the freedom of speech. Without this right, we lose sight of the great opionions and thoughts of the people who live amoung us. This is a very important right because of the fact that if we could not speak our opionions, then we would never hear any new ideas, and we would be contrained to one way of thinking.

The author says that both freedom of speech and academic freedom are both cornerstones of American society. He says that the relationship between the two that most closely affects him is that freedom of speech directly affects his ability to perform well at his job. Freedom of speech allows americans to challenge the status quo, speak out on important issues, and learn any new thing that they want to. People rationalized Chemerinsky's right to academic freedom but did not for Summers because Chemerinsky was liberal and Summers was known to be conservative. It is a well known fact that the faculty of humanities and social science disciplines are overwhelmingly liberal so it is easy to understand why Chemerinsky was supported and Summers was not. Everyone has the freedom of speech as provided in the constitution, but sometimes freedom of speech is abused. As long as a person does not use their rights to hurt the rights of others they can have all the freedom of speech they want.

Everyone has the right to their own opinions, but at the same time we have to be respectful of how other people feel when we share those opinions.

What a privilege to have freedom of speech and freedom academically! The key to feedom of speech is speaking truth. Truth must be the foundation with it spoken in the right attitude. This is hard to do. Our natural tendency is to only be concerned with our thoughts and needs without any concern for another.

There is a difference between speaking freely and intentionally hurting someones feelings. Sometimes the saying "If you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything at all" applys.People remember what you said,and you can't take it back once you said it.

FREEDOM OF SPEECH IS GIVEN TO ALL. OPINIONS ARE FORMED AND SAID AND MOST TIME THEN NOT NO ONE AGREES. I GUESS SOME SHOULDNT BE ABLE TO HAVE THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH BECAUSE ALOT OF PEOPLE USE IT IN RUDE AND HORRIBLE WAYS

Both freedoms are related because they both coordinate with each other. Chemerinksy had a liberal perspective, while most people were simply appalled by what Summers had to say. They felt what Summers had to say what inappropriate at a time when the university was trying to diversify its community. In the author's oppinion, everyone deserves the right to speak freely, and I agree with the author. Everyone should have the freedom of speech but need to use that freedom more wisely.

Freedom of speech and acedemic freedom are both one in the same. They both allow you to express your opionions freely. Alot to do with the Chemerinksy and Summers situation had to do with the way the carried themselves and their views. I think everyone, especially Americans, should have the freedom of speech. Thats my personal opinion on the matter. You stay classy...world wide web!

in freedom of speach no one is right and noone is wrong. if you are able to talk then you have freedom of speach! if we are all individuals then we can ay whatever we want to that doesnt mean that everyone will like it but is that not how the world goes around?

freedom of speech is a constional right as a us citizen!!! nomatter what they are talking about!!!

These two issues are related because both deal with our right to speak freely in any environment. People said that Chemerinsky was not rightly treated and that he should be allowed to be the dean. However, Summers, even though he made his opinion about women clear, was not given the same chance that Chemerinsky was. Summers expressed his opinion, and people should respect that. Other scholars and professors could have challenged his statement and made him prove that his statement about women being inferior to men was true, or was not true. Everybody deserves freedom of speech, in that no hateful words are said. I believe that everyone, no matter what they say, are entitled to express their opinion no matter the situation. They shouldn't have to worry about someone else's feelings. My opinion isn't going to make you change your mind any more than your opinion is going to change my mind.


the freedom of speech yea sometime i wish people didnt have the right just due to what comes out of it. I know that the freedom of speech is a constional right and it shold be but i wish that people would use it with a little Humility!

Freedom of speech and academic freedom are related because both involve being able to speak openly in both situations. The author believes everyone deserves freedom of speech and I agree. Everyone should be able to express their views on whatever the topic or situation is. People often bring up ideas that we ourselves didnt think of and it's good to see how other people think.

Freedom of speech was given to us many years ago that a lot of people take advantage of everyday. Many use it in rude and disrespectful ways. We all have our own voice and opinion, therefore, we don't always agree with each other on things but we need to learn to give respect to each other even if we agree or disagree.

I do believe in free speach. The difference between the two colleges was that one person was going to be turn down for a job base on his politics. He was'nt speaking down or being hateful to anyone. On the other hand, the other was being hateful and predijuce towards women. I can fully understand why the college didn't want to let this guy speak. One thing it reflex badly on the college and it might look as if they agree with this kind of attitude.This guy had the right to say what he feels but don't think that a bussiness or institution is going to be affiliated with you.

Everyone deserve the right of freedom of speech. Everyone has their opinions and you might disagree with it, but give your opinion in a respectful way and let it be.

I feel like freedom of speech is very important in our society. And I also think everyone has they own opinion.

"Freedom of speech is a universal right that belongs to everyone, not just to those with whom you agree". Absolutely right. i think everyone should have the right to express himself whatever position he holds. well, I can unsderstand thwe "rationalisation of this ffreedom toward the two cases. if u have freedom of speech, u don`t need to be hateful, or the society will set u apart. That`s the way social life is.

They are both coner stones. He has the right to write and because of freedom of speech he can challege serious subjects. Chemerinksy is preceived as having a liberal prespective and Summers have a more contriversal perception. According to the article everyone deserves the right to free speech and I agree because, we are all created equal.

They are both coner stones. People gave their support to Chemerinky's. They did not support Summers becaus he had a contriversal percpective whereas Chermerinksy has a more liberal outlookl.

They are both coner stones. People gave their support to Chemerinky's. They did not support Summers becaus he had a contriversal percpective whereas Chermerinksy has a more liberal out look. According to the article everyone deserves free speec. I agree but who really has free speech? Who can really say what ever they want when ever they want without any consequences.

They are both related because they have the same freedoms. Having academic freedom is apart of having freedom of speech, its the freedom of being able to voice your opinion. According to the author, freedom of speech is for everyone, and i agree with that. Someone will always be offended no matter what is said, we just have to learn to respect each other and realize were all different and have different opinions, right or wrong, or else we will get all of our freedom taken away.

"A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. covered a broad prospective with those few words. Actually it sums up just about everything to do with human rights, including freedom of speech, racism, and so on. Overall it states if everything is not equal on both sides there is always gonna be room for injustice. Freedom of speech is a right given to us by the constitution. Not only that but a God given right.

Freedom of speech and academic freedom are almost the same. They are both rights every person should have. Basically some people can say what they want and others get punished depending on the person. It isn't fair but thats the way it is. Everyone has the right to freedom of speech until you abuse in my opinion

When reading this article the author says that both freedom of speech and academic freedom are both cornerstones of American society. He says that the relationship between the two that most closely affects him is that freedom of speech directly affects his ability to perform well at his job. I feel like everyone is entitled to have their own opinion only if they speak wisely.

Freedom of speech is our constitutional right,and many use it; many ABUSE it, also. Where is the line between law given rights and SELF given rights? So many people think that not only are they entitled to express themselves in any manner possible, but don't think twice on infringing on other people's personal space and belief system.

Freedom of speech is sometimes used to much and not enough, There are people who get angry about a cuss word on television and on the radio but they are probably hipicritcle because nobody is perfect. And the freedom of speech about the rights for gays and how they speak that it is not right in the bible it also says not to judge anyone and everyone does. Everyone takes advantage of the right and then other times when it is need to they never take that step.

Sometimes I wonder who really deserves absolute freedom of speech,I just think people abuse this right. Definitely there are times when the right should be excersised but often someone gets carried away and have more negative results than good. I do not have the authority to judge anyone or say what circumstances are justifiable to use the freedom of speech right but I do wish people would use this to better our lives.

i think everybody has the right to freedom of speech because everybody has their own opinion but its only a problem when someone hear somthing they dont like then you have a priblem

Summers was denied beacause he is conservative. No doubt that I don't agree with what he said, but as an American he has a right to say it. We no longer have true freedom of speech in this country. If you say something that is controversial but goes along with what the liberal general public agrees with, then it's perfectly fine. The Democratic party and liberal views have become the popular way of thinking in today's America and if you speak out against it then you will be denounced for it. Freedom of speech? I dont think so....

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