National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version


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UReCA: The NCHC Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity:


Copyright @ by the author.


Hate speech and free speech, and the relationship between the two, have been prominent in the news lately, especially regarding speech on college campuses. It seems to me, however, that the debate usually lacks nuance. One side is portrayed as being free speech absolutists, while the other is seen as creating rules and restrictions that send us down a road towards totalitarianism and tyranny. In reality, however, very few people actually desire either of these extremes. No one wants tyrannical totalitarianism, and nearly everyone will admit that there needs to be, at the very least, restrictions on who can speak in what order, to avoid everyone shouting at once. Free speech, like all rights, must be balanced against other, sometimes conflicting, rights. Whether the right to free speech wins out over other rights and values will depend on the context. After all, there is bound to be less free speech in the military, where order and hierarchy are often more prized than free thought. On a college campus, however, the freedom to discuss and debate ideas is prized much more highly1.