Letters to the Editor: Free Speech and the Honor Code

In response to “The Supreme Court, Honor Code, and The Muppets: Reform for Free Speech and Expression,” The Clerk received many articles and letters to the editor from the community. This is an abridged collection of several such responses. We will be publishing more in the coming days.

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“Majoritarian Morality” and Civic Values

By Chelsea Richardson ‘18

“We can debate the merits of whether anti-discrimination principles should be part of our civic community, but we cannot debate the merits of whether subjective principles should be part of the Honor Code. Every legal code or constitution is grounded in normative principles about what should and should not be. The Supreme Court cases Canada cites are grounded in normative ideas about the value of free speech. Should we dispense with the value of free speech, since its moral basis is subjective?”

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Not All Opinions Are Created Equal

By Jaimon Olmsted ‘17

“I have taken two Constitutional Law courses here at Haverford, and I am a great believer in the importance of the courts and the value of our Constitution. But I am also perplexed by the theory that our Honor Code must mirror existing law as ruled on and established by the United States Supreme Court. Haverford is a private institution, not beholden to the same Constitutional provisions that hold state-run universities accountable.  If we, as a community believe that a Court holding is incorrect and does not sufficiently protect the marginalized among us, we should govern ourselves in a way more fitting of our ideals and what we believe to be right.”

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Not a Response Piece

By Shewit Zerai ‘18

“So this isn’t a response to that piece in The Clerk because I’m done having to convince people of my worth.

This is a statement of love, solidarity, power, and sadness. This is a piece dedicated to combating those feelings of stress, loneliness, despair, hopelessness, anger, rage, and anxiety. This is a piece I felt I needed to write because not writing for so long has kept my heart heavy, my mind weary, and my body in pain.”

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Why ‘Tyranny’ of the Majority At Haverford is not Silencing Free Speech

By Hannah Krohn ‘17

“Haverford’s commitment to pluralism is well intentioned, but still entrenched in the power dynamics that permeate everyone’s experience at Haverford. The tree of freedom of speech is always something that deserves to be critically looked at, but so do contextualized experiences affecting wielded power in our community such as class, sex, gender, race, nationality, and ability. Not all speech is equal and not all views are equal, and some chip away at the humanity of individuals everyday. Viewpoints or ideologies aside, we need to strive to recognize the humanness, people’s embodied reality, and what we want Haverford students to bring into the world. Free speech is definitively one of them, but what Haverford is trying to add is an intolerance of discrimination, and attempts at fostering actual equality amongst ourselves and the broader world.”

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A Letter to David

By Andy Beck ‘17

“I, too, value free speech. Haverford’s campus values free speech. It’s an essential right that makes the liberal arts work. However, I also believe, along with many at Haverford, that speech that threatens or questions the humanity of another (cross burning, blackface, etc.) is not legitimate expression of free speech. Moderating speech to some extent—which, it bears repeating, is merely the rejection of blatant hate speech—is necessary to ensure that viewpoints that are actively predicated upon the dehumanization of entire identities are not welcome at Haverford.”

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