Right and Wrong

Stanley Fish writes in the Chronicle that free speech issues are rarely in sight on American campuses. He’s right in that too often free speech is used as the only defense of rude, disrespectful and unthoughtful speech, even when no one proposes that such speech should be banned. While no rule or law prevents one from writing and publishing, for example, an incontrovertably racist column, nothing compels the editor of the campus paper to publish it and common sense and tact would argue that he not. But that’s not a speech issue; the author may still publish elsewhere or even self-publish. He retains his right to free expression regardless.

But I’m not sure that such cases are so common as Fish implies. Aside from his two examples, no others come immediately to mind.

In misrepresenting the state of speech controversies on campuses, Fish sweeps under the rug a more interesting (and relevent) sort of case, those in which students’ rights are clearly abridged by their universities, as opposed to merely criticized or marginalized. Look to FIRE for dozens of examples of this sort of policy.