Amid widening criticism that liberal Wellesley College is becoming an enemy of free speech, the student newspaper at the elite school denied that is the case — and yet said “hostility may be warranted” for those who “are given the resources to learn and either continue to speak hate speech or refuse to adapt their beliefs.”
The staff editorial — “Free speech is not violated at Wellesley” — added that if “people continue to support racist politicians or pay for speakers that prop up speech that will lead to the harm of others, then it is critical to take the appropriate measures to hold them accountable for their actions.”
More from the Wellesley News editorial:
Wellesley students are generally correct in their attempts to differentiate what is viable discourse from what is just hate speech. Wellesley is certainly not a place for racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia or any other type of discriminatory speech. Shutting down rhetoric that undermines the existence and rights of others is not a violation of free speech; it is hate speech. The founding fathers put free speech in the Constitution as a way to protect the disenfranchised and to protect individual citizens from the power of the government. The spirit of free speech is to protect the suppressed, not to protect a free-for-all where anything is acceptable, no matter how hateful and damaging.
The editorial also said students at the women’s college “hail from a variety of diverse backgrounds” and some come with “previously-held biases that are in part the products of home environments.” However, “Wellesley forces us to both recognize and grow from these beliefs, as is the mark of a good college education,” the piece said.
As for “students who may have not been given the chance to learn” yet, the paper said they shouldn’t get berated for their belief “mistakes” but receive corrective education. But no such latitude is extended to those “who have already had the incentive to learn and should have taken the opportunities to do so,” the editorial noted.
After drawing distinctions regarding who should be shielded from shame for wrong beliefs and who shouldn’t be safe from getting berated at the Massachusetts school, the editorial writers concluded by saying they’re “not interested in any type of tone policing.”
“There is no denying that problematic opinions need to be addressed in order to stop Wellesley from becoming a place where hate speech and casual discrimination is okay,” the last paragraph read, adding that the campus community should “first bridge the gap between students in our community before we resort to personal attacks. Our student body is not only smart, it is also kind. Let us demonstrate that through productive dialogue.”
A couple of highly regarded journalists — Jeffrey Goldberg, editor in chief at The Atlantic, and Byron Tau, congressional and political reporter at the Wall Street Journal — took issue with the Wellesley News staff editorial:
One of the more frightening editorials I've ever read (from the Wellesley student newspaper): https://t.co/EnWovbdBwo
— Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) April 14, 2017
Embarrassingly poor grasp of First Amendment and free speech by student journalists at allegedly elite college. https://t.co/EZHuvA1Al6
— Byron Tau (@ByronTau) April 14, 2017
TheBlaze reported last month that an influential faculty committee at Wellesley called for the school to stop inviting speakers whose ideas cause students “harm.”
“We are especially concerned with the impact of speakers’ presentations on Wellesley students, who often feel the injury most acutely and invest time and energy in rebutting the speakers’ arguments,” noted an email from the faculty committee reportedly sent throughout the school community. “Students object in order to affirm their humanity. This work is not optional; students feel they would be unable to carry out their responsibilities as students without standing up for themselves.”
The email was written in response to a visit to Wellesley by Northwestern University Professor Laura Kipnis, who has criticized rape culture prevalent on many college campuses and got an angry reception from a number of students at Wellesley prior to her lecture there.
(H/T: The College Fix)