Students' Opinions on Hate Speech at RIT
by Taylor Synclair Goethe | published Dec. 1st, 2017
The alt-right movement has been gaining more and more traction within mainstream media. The current poster child for white nationalism, Richard Spencer, has held multiple talks on his ideologies at universities across the country. To refer to Spencer as controversial would be an understatement since he has made several racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic and just about every other-phobic remarks publicly without regret. He is frequently referred to as a hate speaker which is why his speeches, such as the ones at UC Berkeley or University of Florida, were heavily protested and turned violent.
The debate between whether universities should allow for radical ideologists like Richard Spencer to speak on their campuses has become a hot button issue. Reporter asked questions via an online survey posted to the RIT Reddit and Facebook to gauge student responses.
Where is the Line Between Controversial Speech and Actual Hate Speech?
The first question was a short essay response and left purposely vague so students could express their opinions without constraint. Although student answers varied considerably most followed these three trends:
The Value of “Hate” Speech: The Reddit Debate
Comments on the RIT Reddit page continued the debate of what is and isn’t considered hate speech, as well as the prospect of having Richard Spencer on campus. Again, discussions were polarized between two differing views.
“Campuses are supposed to be places where beliefs are challenged. If you genuinely think his beliefs are wrong, you should challenge them in the academic setting of a lecture/speaking event, where you can listen to his argument and then refute it in the Q/A section.
"There are few things more embarrassing than a student half your age dismantling your argument in front of the rest of the student body. The platform argument only really matters when people can't think for themselves, which shouldn't happen on a college campus if the campus is doing it's [sic] job.
"If your time in college hasn't taught you to question the arguments you hear, do some research yourself, and then make up your own informed opinion, then you've been done a disservice. I understand technical schools are supposed to teach you skills for a career, but colleges as a whole are supposed to teach you how to reason and critically think about the world.”
Do All Ideologies Deserve a Platform?
“Instead of asking how we can make reparations for slavery, colonialism and Apartheid or how we can equalize academic scores and incomes, we should instead be asking questions like, ‘Does human civilization actually need the Black race?’ ‘Is Black genocide right?’ and, if it is, ‘What would be the best and easiest way to dispose of them?’ With starting points like this, wisdom is sure to flourish, enlightenment to dawn.”
Spencer condones anti-blackness, genocide of nonwhites and many other hateful beliefs,
Although students may be ready to demonstrate if the opportunity presents themselves, they may not get the chance to. The C11.0 POLICY WITH RESPECT TO DEMONSTRATIONS ON CAMPUS Section B reads:
“The freedom of movement or speech of any individual or group shall be maintained, provided that this shall not be deemed to countenance language or actions likely to provoke or encourage disruption of, or interference with classes, educational activities, or any events sponsored by RIT or any recognized official, faculty or student group."
Although C11.0 is currently up for review and updates, its current language could prevent students from protesting in any disruptive way. If a hate speaker were to come to campus, students seem to want it to be in a medium where they could protest and challenge the speaker's views. If Richard Spencer were to be invited to campus, RIT students have made their stance clear.