ERIC Number: EJ1171161
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2018
Freedom of Speech and the Communication Discipline: Defending the Value of Low-Value Speech. Wicked Problems Forum: Freedom of Speech at Colleges and Universities
Herbeck, Dale A.
Communication Education, v67 n2 p245-253 2018
Heated battles over free speech have erupted on college campuses across the United States in recent months. Some of the most prominent incidents involve efforts by students to prevent public appearances by speakers espousing controversial viewpoints. Efforts to silence offensive speakers on college campuses are not new; in these endeavors, one can hear echoes from the late 1980s and early 1990s. There is, of course, a meaningful distinction between organized efforts by students to silence speakers and policies adopted by colleges and universities to protect students from objectionable speech. It is, however, important to note that these efforts share a common motivation: They involve questions about the reach of the First Amendment in situations that involve structured or unstructured efforts to silence speakers or suppress ideas that some members of the community deem offensive. To assess the desirability of these efforts, it is necessary to consider the value of the speech being suppressed. Unlike political speech, which is always assumed to have value, courts and commentators have suggested that speech such as racial epithets, defamatory statements, and obscene utterances (referred to by academics and jurists as "low-value speech") should receive less First Amendment protection. This essay challenges this typology, offering a communication-focused (and legally grounded) defense of low-value speech within institutions of higher education committed to debate, dialogue, and the free exchange of ideas. To accomplish their mission, college and universities need to be a place where students and scholars are free to consider a broad range of ideas, most especially those that test conventional wisdom or the prevailing viewpoint.
Descriptors: Freedom of Speech, School Policy, Social Bias, Social Attitudes, Communication Skills, Communication Strategies, Teaching Methods, Civil Rights, Higher Education, Activism, Dissent, Democratic Values, College Environment, Constitutional Law, Religion
Taylor & Francis. Available from: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. 530 Walnut Street Suite 850, Philadelphia, PA 19106. Tel: 800-354-1420; Tel: 215-625-8900; Fax: 215-207-0050; Web site: http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative; Opinion Papers
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Virginia
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: First Amendment
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A