Norman, OK

“Anti-racist” seminar at the University of Oklahoma: “In the classroom, free speech does not apply”

Amy Christie

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Foundation for Individual Rights in Education/ YouTube screenshot

Instructors and graduate teaching assistants have been advised recently to keep a close eye on problematic speech in the classroom. The leaders of the workshop emphasized that, “In the classroom, free speech does not apply.”

What are the details?

The seminar was titled “Anti-Racist Rhetoric & Pedagogies,” was one of the nine developmental workshops included in the last semester. A recording of it was obtained by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

Unfortunately, it clearly shows that the instructors didn’t hesitate to encourage all instructors to trample on students’ free speech rights.

Kelli Pyron Alvarez, one of the workshop leaders, said that students enrolled in a Principles of English Composition course at the university are “emboldened to be racist, like overtly racist.”

The suggested way to deal with that issue is for instructors to prohibit them from making any statement that might hurt others.

Such offensive statements would include “derogatory remarks, critiques, and hate speech,” according to Alvarez, and also using “white supremacist ideas or sources.”

“If they use any of those things, if any of those come through in their writing or in their comments, I will call them out on it,” she added.

The leader said that she understood that some instructors might be hesitant to use such censorship measures against their students, but she assured them there would be no repercussions.

“One of the fears is that we're going to get in trouble for this, right? Like we can't tell students that they can't say something in class. But we can! And let me tell you how. In the classroom, free speech does not apply. The Supreme Court has actually upheld that hate speech and derogatory speech do not apply in the classroom because they do not foster a productive learning environment. And so, as instructors, we can tell our students: 'No, you do not have the right to say that. Stop talking right now,’” Alvarez explained.

Reason.com rebutted Alvarez's claim in its coverage of the workshop seminar, and it called it “stunningly wrong.’

“The Supreme Court has never issued a ruling that prohibits 'hate speech' on college campuses or anywhere else. Hate speech, in fact, is a subjective term. What someone finds hateful might nevertheless be objectively true, and more importantly, fully protected by the First Amendment,” Reason writer Robby Soave pointed out.

However, the argument was stated again later in the seminar by another leader, Kasey Woody, saying, “You do not need to worry about repercussions at any degree in the university if you are responding to a student who is using problematic language in the classroom.”

“I usually look for my students who might be, like, entertaining the idea of listening to a problematic argument. Then I say, 'We don't have to listen to that,’” she explained during the seminar for the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

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Amy Christie is a passionate writer and journalist, always striving to bring out the positive and create meaningful connections.

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