The ACLU of Missouri is disappointed with the recent request by the University of Missouri Police to report ‘hurtful speech,’ which simultaneously does too much and too little.
Racial epithets addressed to a specific person in a threatening or intimidating manner can be illegal, and may require action by police and/or university administrators. But, no governmental entity has the authority to broadly prohibit ‘hurtful’ speech — or even undefined ‘hateful’ speech, or to discipline against it.
Conversely, institutional racism and a history of turning a blind-eye to systemic inequities does require action. But mistakenly addressing symptoms — instead of causes — and doing it in a way that runs counter to the First Amendment is not the wise or appropriate response.
Missourians can rightfully expect our public university to establish policies and practices that proactively educate administrators, faculty, staff and students about the causes of, and solutions to, systemic racism and inequality, and that comports with the right to free speech and expression.