Andrew Koppelman (Northwestern) and Me, Moderated by Judge Stephanos Bibas, on “Freedom of Thought on Campus”

I much enjoyed this Federalist Society discussion (sponsored by the Georgetown Law Student Chapter and by the Free Speech & Election Law Practice Group) and hope you do, too! Their summary is here:

Are open discussions and debates essential for the functioning of a university?

Georgetown is one of many universities that have strong policies regarding academic freedom. They believe deliberation and debate should not be restricted because the ideas being presented might be unwise, offensive, moral, or otherwise harmful.

But when controversy arises on campus, concrete complaints about offensive speech can displace these abstract principles of academic freedom.

What environment is necessary to foster learning? Which limits should be placed on the ideas and opinions that students receive from their classmates and teachers? Students should not be exposed to offensive opinions or ideas. Students should be able to take administrative action if they are confronted with offensive opinions. Is there any harm that offense can cause?

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However, administrators may have to take legal action in order to punish speech that is offensive. Who is responsible for the harm that comes with limiting speech and opinions? What kind of statements or opinions are considered harmful?