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Free Speech on Public Colleges

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Voting Style: Judge Point System: Select Winner
Started: 3/26/2017 Category: Society
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,765 times Debate No: 101308
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (43)
Votes (1)





Romanii applied to debate me on this topic and on these sides through my "You Choose the Topic" debate challenge. As an interesting bit of trivia, if Romanii accepts this debate, this would be our 7th time debating each other. I think that this topic is particularly interesting and timely, and I look forward to engaging him on the subject. He's an excellent debater, and I look forward to a fun round.

In order to ensure quality judging, I have nominated the following judges: Tej, FT, Whiteflame, Warren, Max, and Danielle. Those judges, by accepting this debate, agree to set aside their personal views on the topic and to adjudicate the round as impartially as they can; they also agree to refrain from discussing their vote or the outcome of the debate with any third party or the debaters themselves before casting their ballot. If Romanii would like to have this list altered in any way, he should inform me before the start of the debate. The voting period lasts 14 days.


Public colleges and universities in the United States ought not restrict any constitutionally protected speech


Public - of or relating to a government
College and University - an institution of higher learning providing facilities for teaching and research and authorized to grant academic degrees
Ought - expresses moral obligation
Constitutionally Protected Speech - any class or category of speech which the speaker has a constitutionally protected right to say (as guaranteed by the 1st and 14th Amendments). The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of what classes of speech are protected by the constitution. Common exceptions to free speech protections include: obscenity, fighting words, true threats, age restrictions on adult content, and defamation. That list is not exhaustive, but in general the US legal system has historically erred on the side of not restricting speech. Hate speech, as a class of speech, is protected by the constitution.


1. No forfeits
2. Citations must be provided in the text of the debate
3. No new arguments in the final speeches
4. Observe good sportsmanship and maintain a civil and decorous atmosphere
5. No trolling
6. No "kritiks" of the topic (challenging assumptions in the resolution)
7. My opponent accepts all definitions and waives his/her right to add resolutional definitions
8. For all undefined resolutional terms, individuals should use commonplace understandings that fit within the logical context of the resolution and this debate (unless otherwise specified in R1)
9. The BOP is evenly shared
10. Pro must post their arguments in R1 and waive in R4
11. Rebuttals of new points raised in an adversary's immediately preceding speech may be permissible at the judges' discretion even in the final round (debaters may debate their appropriateness)
12. Violation of any of these rules, or of any of the R1 set-up, merits a loss


R1. Pro's Case
R2. Con's Case; Pro generic Rebuttal
R3. Con generic Rebuttal; Pro generic Rebuttal and Summary
R4. Con generic Rebuttal and Summary; Pro Waives

Thanks... Romanii for the debate. Looking forward to an intriguing debate!


Frankly, it makes no sense for me to be going first in this debate, so I'm gonna keep this very short.

My opponent's case will almost certainly focus on "hate speech" and "uncivil discourse," so I'll go ahead and focus my case on that stuff as well.

PREMISE -- The purpose of a college education is to prepare students to live productive lives in the real world.
I argue that any attempt at restricting free speech is counter-productive to that end.

In the real world, people can say virtually anything they want to say. People have the right to aggressively and uncivilly challenge your views. They have the right to insult your intelligence, to spew toxic vitriol at you, and to say stuff that makes you feel bad about who you are. And people often do exercise those rights. That's how our society works.

To restrict such behavior on college campuses is to deprive students of the opportunity to learn how to cope with that reality. It deprives them of an educational experience which is crucial in learning how to maintain their emotional stability, as they navigate their way through a world that's largely indifferent to their sensitivities.

There is absolutely no reason to protect college students from anything that adults have to deal with. Doing so only leaves them less prepared to live their lives after graduating, which is unacceptable.

I rest my case.
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks to Romanii for the debate.

I. Intro

Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. I wonder how many of us heard or repeated that refrain during our childhoods. Looking back, though, I cannot agree with that neat little rhyme--it perpetuates the illusion that verbal abuse is somehow not serious. It suggest that it's the victim's fault for being the victim; obviously, they should just shrug it off because words aren't really serious, right?

In this round, I will be examining the harms of certain kinds of speech in order to make the case for further restricting. Namely, I will be focusing on hate speech and privacy violations. By hate speech, I refer specifically to slurs or "communication that carries no meaning other than the expression of hatred for some group, especially in circumstances in which the communication is likely to provoke violence." [1] I will argue that public colleges and universities ought to impose restrictions on hate speech which it becomes pervasive enough to create an environment clearly hostile to minority students. Hate speech should be prohibited in a college's research publications as well. I will also argue that campuses should take steps to prevent students from maliciously revealing the private information of fellow students.

Before I launch into my arguments, I will note that colleges tend to serve various roles: they prepare students for life outside college, they produce research and generate knowledge, they foster the personal development of students as individuals, and they seek to transfer knowledge.

II. Hate Speech

Picture a Hispanic student walking through campus, and being subjected to a barrage of slurs and abuses: "Sp*k!" "Go back to where you came from!" "Wetb**k!" "You should've been shot crossing the border!" Or, perhaps, the student encounters someone like white supremacist Hal Turner, who once said, "These filthy, disease ridden, two-legged bags of human debris are too stupid to believe...Just think, America, if we bring enough of them here, they can do for America exactly what they did for Mexico! Turn our whole country into a crime-ridden, drug infested slum...These people are sub-human." [2] That kind of verbal abuse, rooted in pure hatred, is likely to harm the student in a number of ways. He or she is apt to feel less safe, to suffer emotional and psychological trauma, and to suffer in their schoolwork. This much seems straightforward on an intuitive level, but it is also borne out in empirical data.

One research team conducted two experiments using Asian American University students to examine the impact racist hate speech had on them, relative to other forms of offense. The team found that "hate speech directed at ethnic targets deserves more severe punishment than other forms of offensive speech...Hate speech also results in more extreme emotional responses and, in the case of an Asian target, has a depressing influence on collective self-esteem." [3] A separate study of 200 African American college students confirms that hate speech has a severe negative impact on individuals self-esteem and emotional health. [4] Other scholars have found that "Psychological responses to such stigmatization consists of feelings of humiliation, isolation, and self-hatred. Consequently, it is neither unusual nor abnormal for stigmatized individuals to feel ambivalent about their self-worth and identity...The psychological effects of racism may also result in mental illness and psychosomatic disease. The affected person may react by seeking escape through alcohol, drugs, or other kinds of antisocial behavior." The source goes on to note that racist invective may contribute to physical conditions like hypertension. [10]

The impact of speech of this variety is not confined to the loss of self-esteem and psychological wellbeing. In fact, loss of self-esteem and self-respect can have effects which reverberate across other areas of life. After all, "few things seem worth doing if a person has little sense of his or her own worth or no confidence in his or her abilities to execute a worthwhile life plan." [5] It should therefore not be surprising that suicide rates correlate closely and positively with being the victim of racist verbal abuse. [6] Sometimes words do hit harder than sticks and stones.

Other researchers have found links between low self-esteem and anti-social or aggressive behavior. [7, 10] In other words, it is conceivable that being verbally abused in this way is capable of indirectly increasing violence, not just by spreading hate, but also by making victims less stable.

We can also conjecture that this loss of self-esteem, because of its de-motivating effects, could adversely impact school performance. "From the victim's perspective, hate messages and their stigmatization also cause long-term psychological harm...Feelings of isolation and aloneness are not uncommon. The psychological effects of hate messages also reinforce feelings of...prejudice based upon certain group memberships, causing victims to forego opportunities, to avoid certain places, to engage in self-censorship of speech, and to generally modify their behavior...The emotional distress...feelings of inferiority and disconnectedness from community...produced by hate messages have serious implications for our understanding of how students learn...The psychological well-being of a student is a prerequisite to meaningful learning experiences; to the extent that a student harbors feelings of subordination and inadequacy, learning will be impaired." [8] "Individuals subjected to harassing environments in which hate speech exists may not be able to focus their attention on academics. They cannot grow and develop in ways typical of their peers and are forced to live in hostile communities. Students who are busy worrying about their physical and emotional safety have no time or energy to participate in university activities." [9]

It is also worth mentioning that hate speech serves no noticeable academic function, so it is not a necessary part of living in an academic institution. Furthermore, public colleges and universities ought to protect their reputations for professionalism by preventing their research publications expressing hate speech.

III. Privacy

Let's talk about Milo Yiannopoulos for a minute, as odious as that my be. "In critiquing leftist criticism of the phrase 'man up,' Yiannopoulos said...'I'll tell you one UW-Milwaukee student that does not need to man up.' He then showed the student"s photo. 'Have any of you come into contact with this person?' he asked. 'This quote unquote nonbinary trans woman forced his way into the women"s locker rooms this year.' He went on: 'I see you don"t even read your own student media. He got into the women's room the way liberals always operate, using the government and the courts to weasel their way where they don't belong. In this case he made a Title IX complaint. Title IX is a set of rules to protect women on campus effectively. It's couched in the language of equality, but it's really about women, which under normal circumstances would be fine, except for how it's implemented. Now it is used to put men in to women's bathrooms. I have known some passing tr*nnies in my life. Tr*nnies--you"re not allowed to say that. I've known some passing tr*nnies, which is to say transgender people who pass as the gender they would like to be considered." [10] This whole affair was broadcast live on Breibart as well. [11]

Granted, Milo was not a student at the college, but had the college had a better privacy policy in place and made it a condition of being permitted to speak at the college that speakers agree to abide by this policy, this incident could've been averted, or at least the student and the school would have had some clear legal recourse against Milo after the fact.

We can imagine similar kinds of gross violations of privacy, e.g. using a school newspaper to out LGBTQ students as one done at Dartmouth [12] or posting revenge porn online. For anyone who may not be aware of what revenge porn is, it is posting nude images of your ex online as a form of revenge. Victims, if they took the photos, can use copyright laws to take them down, but are in a far more vulnerable position if they did not take the photos. It is not stretch to imagine how being outted or having revenge porn of you posted online could negatively impact your life. Likely, it will cause psychological damage. It could cause estrangement from loved ones. It could result in suicide, as was the case when Tiziana Cantone killed herself as a result of revenge porn. [13] And, it could result in students being harassed once they are exposed.

IV. Conclusion

Public colleges and universities have a duty to their students, to ensure their safety. Permitting actions which could jeopardize that safety--actions which could easily result in suicide, harassment, or injury--are actions which are appropriately restricted by them. Hate speech serves no academic function and can hinder the personal, academic, and health development of its victims. Egregious violations of privacy are similarly vile, and neither those violations nor hate speech generally contributes positively to the success of the victims of them.

V. Sources

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Thus, I negate. Thanks to Romanii and to the judges. Please Vote Con!


The "Privacy" argument is completely non-topical. Malicious violations of privacy are NOT considered to be protected by the first amendment. Virtually all states have laws providing legal recourse to victims of the sort of stuff my opponent talks about, including "revenge porn" [1] [2].

In other words, my opponent is trying to get me to defend something outside the scope of the resolution, and thus everything he said on the matter should be dismissed.

This debate comes down to "hate speech."

(1) Emotional Stability

My opponent's laundry list of evidence actually *supports* my case. Yes, it is true that "hate speech" can have negative impacts on the emotional well-being of its victims. And that is precisely why we need to prepare students to cope with it in a healthy manner. The fact is that once they graduate, they're gonna be exposed to "hate speech," and there's nothing campus authorities can do to prevent that. My opponent is advocating that we protect students from any and all "hate speech" for the four years that they are in school... and then what? Then they go out into the real world, encounter people like Hal Turner, and fully experience all the horrible emotional consequences Con speaks of, because they never had the opportunity to learn how to deal with it properly. Con's advocacy is nonsensical.

Instead of trying to castigate "hate speech," public universities should simply offer counseling to those who are negatively impacted by it. Counseling sessions should train students to *avoid* their emotional impulses and retain their self-esteem when confronted by hateful language. Campus culture as a whole should reinforce an attitude of mental fortitude in the face of adversity and unconditional confidence in ones own self-worth.

Absolutely nothing is accomplished by shielding college students from the reality they're gonna face after graduation. What I'm advocating is infinitely better for the long-term emotional stability of students.

(2) Social Progress

Furthermore, turning college campuses into free-speech-zones will actually *reduce* the occurrence of hate speech in the long-run. The best part about the right to free speech is that everybody has it. Just as bigots are free to speak their minds, everybody else is free to speak their minds in universally condemning bigots for their morally repugnant views.

In the words of some famous guy whose name I forgot, "sunlight is the best disinfectant" -- the vast majority of people are reasonable and conscientious, so simply allowing public exposure to ugly ideas ends up sparking widespread social pressure against those ideas, organically eradicating them far more effectively than any campus authorities possibly could. Force has never been a particularly useful vehicle for social progress -- it simply serves to push regressive sentiments into the shadows, where they fester and boil and silently gain momentum within isolated circles. If you really want to see a less prejudiced and less hateful world, freedom of speech is the way to go.

(3) Political Censorship

I'd like to call attention to the part of last round where my opponent mentioned Milo Yiannopoulos. Let's look objectively at what exactly Milo did there -- all he did was call out a student for doing something he believes to be wrong, using their actions as an example to advance his argument. He didn't expose any information about the student that wasn't already publicly available. He didn't attempt to incite any sort of violence or harassment against the student. He did literally nothing wrong, yet my opponent is calling for Milo to be punished for saying what he did. And many people who share Con's ideological inclinations would agree, simply because they perceive Milo's rhetoric on trans-genderism to be "hateful."

That is deeply disturbing, and it highlights an underlying problem with Con's advocacy -- it opens up an opportunity for people to legalistically manipulate campus speech codes and apply them to *any* speech they don't like. This is especially true when it comes to "hate speech" restrictions. On many college campuses, simply disagreeing with liberal orthodoxy on issues like transgenderism, the gender wage gap, or racist police brutality has become enough to get your arguments labeled as "hate speech." Given how vague and subjective Con's definition of the term is, that same sort of mislabeling is virtually inevitable. Allowing restrictions on "hate speech" is just begging for political censorship.


My opponent's proposed "hate speech" restrictions...
(1) Leave students unprepared to emotionally cope with "hate speech" in the real world.
(2) Prevent bigotry from being organically eradicated via social pressure.
(3) Open the floodgates for censorship of contrarian political opinions.

Any one of those harms, taken alone, is sufficient reason to oppose Con's advocacy. If you find even one of those to be persuasive, vote Pro. The resolution is affirmed.


Debate Round No. 2


Unfortunately, I am going to have to forfeit this round, which, per the rules, equates to a forfeiting of the debate. Some last things came up last minute which filled the time I thought I'd have to post this debate, and which will occupy my time for the foreseeable future. I had to choose between finishing my nuclear debate, or posting this one. I chose the former, because it was farther along.

Sorry, Romanii. I am going to have to largely step back from the site for awhile. Maybe we can re-do this a fortnight or month from now, when I have time.


Aight. No worries.

Don't vote on this.
Debate Round No. 3


Waive. Thanks.
Debate Round No. 4
43 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by BryanMullinsNOCHRISTMAS2 2 years ago
Okie dokie
Posted by bsh1 2 years ago
Okie dokie.
Posted by Romanii 2 years ago
Oh sorry, didn't notice your earlier comment.

Idk yet, I wanna see what's happening with this tournament thing first. I don't think I can handle more than one debate at a time.
Posted by bsh1 2 years ago
Did you want to re-do this?
Posted by bsh1 2 years ago
I can finish this debate sometime in late June/early July if you're still interested and available.
Posted by dsjpk5 3 years ago
This was shaping up to be a good debate. Hopefully they'll have a rematch!
Posted by warren42 3 years ago
@Bsh to answer your question from forever ago, since I was one year out I couldn't judge PF at state, and since I was better than most lay judges in IN, they threw me in the general pool. Judged one policy round (atrocious) one LD round (excellent) and four World School rounds (not sure what it's like elsewhere, but due to the point system, in Indiana, it's basically a speech event)

Anyway, the debate looked good until Bsh decided to withdraw. Should I cast a vote for Romanii due to forfeit or?
Posted by Romanii 3 years ago
bwahahahaha no worries. I did the same to you all the other times we debated (except for the first time, which is the only time we actually finished lol)
Posted by bsh1 3 years ago
This is, I think, only my third time forfeiting or pulling out of a debate mid-way. I apologize...I feel bad just leaving it here like this. Sorry.
Posted by bsh1 3 years ago
Not super satisfied with my argument--it ended up being rush, but oh well...
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 3 years ago
Who won the debate:--
Reasons for voting decision: Null vote, as requested.

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