The Supreme Court, Honor Code, and The Muppets: Reform for Free Speech and Expression

This article does not necessarily reflect the views of The Clerk as an institution.

Here at Haverford, our student-drafted and ratified Honor Code seeks to establish guidelines for our academic and social behavior, ideally culminating in a campus devoid of academic dishonesty and social iniquity. While the former aim rests on the objective truth that cheating is immoral, the latter goal, addressing our individual subjectivity, inherently evokes a central question to any community—to what extent is an individual personally responsible to our community? The reasonable answer is that we mediate between our personal desires and liberties and our commitment to our community; however, where this line should be drawn remains contentious. In my opinion, Section 3.04’s “Social” category of the current Honor Code overreaches, allowing for viewpoint discrimination and the imposition of an ideological majority’s will. Although the statement may stem from good intentions, its lack of defined procedure provides for an environment in which minority opinions can be silenced under threat of official punishment by Honor Council. In determining the merit and efficacy of this clause, I recommend looking to Supreme Court precedent. One particular 1992 ruling, that of R.A.V. v. St. Paul, parallels a section of Haverford’s Honor Code and, when compared to the proceedings of “The Muppets,” calls into question our treatment of free speech within the context of our responsibility to the community.

On the morning of June 21, 1990, the petitioner, R.A.V., allegedly burned a cross on a black family’s front lawn, violating St. Paul, Minnesota’s prohibitive statute against symbols “which one knows or has reason to know ‘arouses anger, alarm, or resentment in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, or gender.’”(1)  With the ordinance upheld by the Supreme Court of Minnesota, the defendant appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States, claiming violation of his First Amendment rights to freedom of expression. Although it recognized the defendant’s action as morally reprehensible, the Supreme Court sided with the defendant, unanimously declaring St. Paul’s legislation unconstitutional for content discrimination and for de facto viewpoint discrimination.(2) By limiting its prohibition to specific topics, St. Paul’s ordinance discriminated against certain subjects, while others, such as “political affiliation, union membership, [and] homosexuality” remained outside of its scope; essentially, the law unconstitutionally cherry-picked “disfavored subjects” for prosecution.(3) Further explicating the statute’s unconstitutionality, the Supreme Court recognized that “In its practical operation, moreover, the ordinance goes even beyond mere content discrimination to actual viewpoint discrimination.”(4) In the context of the law, a statement condemning anti-Semitism would be permissible, whereas anti-Semite expression and speech would be considered illegal. Due to this potential imbalance in freedom of expression, the Court deemed the law unconstitutional censorship, declaring that “the point of the First Amendment is that majority preferences must be expressed in some fashion other than silencing speech on the basis of its content.”(5)   

Under Section 3.04 of the Haverford Honor Code,

“We recognize that acts of discrimination and harassment, including, but not limited to, acts of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ableism, discrimination based on religion or political ideology, and discrimination based on national origin or English capability…violate this Code.” (6)

While this long-winded statement avoids an unfairly limited scope by encompassing a plethora of potential topics and providing the clause “but not limited to,” the threat of viewpoint discrimination remains present in its current form. In fact, during my first semester at Haverford, especially within the context of the recent presidential election, I often heard expletive-ridden denunciations of islamophobes, racists, and sexists, which elicited support from other members of the community. However, if an individual condemned Muslims, a racial or ethnic minority, or any gender in a similar manner, they would receive an overwhelmingly negative response.

While we are undeniably entitled to express our distaste for such expressions, I do not believe that we should be able to impose public consequences through Honor Council upon those who espouse views different from our own. By allowing Honor Council, an institution provided for by the Honor Code, to pass formal punishments, euphemistically referred to as “resolutions,” against certain types of expression we allow for viewpoint discrimination against unpopular opinions on Haverford’s campus. We may believe that Honor Council will protect not only the communal interest, but also individual liberties; however, the potential for abuse remains unquestionably high. In fact, even before the implementation of the aforementioned portion of the code in 2015, its underlying rationale served as the basis for de facto institutional censorship against two students in the infamous 2004 Honor Council trial The Muppets.

As many of us are already aware, the defendants in The Muppets, Bert and Ernie, wore blackface and attached black sexual prosthetics to themselves in their portrayal of Macy Gray and an unspecified “blonde haired African American performer.”(7) Comprising the confronting party, Grover, Elmo, and Zoe expressed feelings of alienation, pain, and anger at Bert and Ernie for their portrayal, pressing for “resolutions” that included a public bi-college publication and the exclusion of Bert and Ernie from graduation, claiming that these actions would “set the tone that this type of action won’t be tolerated. She said that they wanted women and Black students on campus to feel secure.”(8) Acknowledging that it did not possess the authority to ban Bert and Ernie from graduation, Honor Council, in its statement of violation, put forth resolutions stating:

-1. Both parties must organize a panel discussion on race and/or gender. The confronting parties are invited to help organize the panel. 2. Each party must write a research paper concerning the White male in America. 3. Each party must write a letter to the community reflecting on how he and others were affected and how he has changed.(9)

By requiring Bert and Ernie to write a detailed, seven-page research paper on “the White male in America,” the Honor Council passed institutional punishment for their Halloween costumes, providing de jure punishment for their controversial portrayals.

While their actions were insensitive and lacked foresight, I do not believe that Bert and Ernie should have received formal punishment from Honor Council for their engagement in blackface because it presents viewpoint discrimination as outlined by the Supreme Court in R.A.V. v. St. Paul. Just because we do not communally approve of an act of verbal or physical expression does not mean we can subject the accused to institutional punishments by Honor Council. Although appeals to the perceived threat to the security and sense of acceptance of black and female students like Zoe’s are important in our self-consideration of our actions, I do not believe that these concerns are substantial grounds for subjecting fellow students with minority opinions to unequal standards within our Code. As stated in R.A.V. v. St. Paul, “St. Paul’s desire to communicate to minority groups that it does not condone the ‘group hatred’ of bias-motivated speech does not justify selectively silencing speech on the basis of its content.”(10)  

Arguably, maliciously burning a cross in a black family’s lawn constitutes a significantly greater transgression than a negligent costume choice, begging the question: why protect this type of expression? I posit that by protecting the right to this offensive and blatantly disrespectful behavior, regardless of intentionality, we protect Haverford’s core dedication to multiculturalism and pluralism.

In rejecting Bert and Ernie’s joint appeal, the then-current President of Haverford College, Thomas R. Tritton responded, “You argue that ‘violating community standards and violating the Honor Code are two different things.’ I cannot agree.”(11) I contest President Tritton’s claim; while our community standards influence our Honor Code, the two should remain disparate to prevent viewpoint discrimination and, therefore, ensure the safety of an unpopular opinion on campus. If we fail to differentiate the two, then we allow the moral and ethical judgments of the majority to become the formal standard upheld in formal Honor Council proceedings, which subjects those who engage in controversial behavior or harbor unpopular opinions to potential punishment for expression explicitly protected within the First Amendment.

In the defense of such behavior and speech, I implore us to reflect upon historical injustices committed against unpopular opinion and action in the name of public decency and perceived security. In my home state of Louisiana, the 1896 Supreme Court ruling Plessy v. Ferguson set a precedent for over half a century of legal Jim Crow segregation in the South in the name maintaining racial purity and ensuring security. This same ideological imposition and belief in community morality, or majority morality, as absolute morality also led to ethnic and religious cleansing in Germany, Turkey, Rwanda, Iran, and Iraq in the 20th century alone. In these cases, the opinion and bias of the majority defined institutional standards, suppressing individual liberties in the name of security and moral righteousness. Unfortunately for racial, ethnic, and religious minorities in these cases, subjectively benevolent intentions did not guarantee positive yield. To clarify, while these events themselves are not comparable to the situation at Haverford, the same foundational problem persists. As in these other historical examples, majoritarian morality is masquerading as an absolute one, threatening freedom of expression with official Honor Council sanction and, thereby, silencing dissent according to its subjective determinations of offensiveness.

Ultimately, the problem with this portion of the Code revolves around an inconsistency within the legitimacy of our desired outcome and the procedures we utilize to realize it. While expressing the incongruence of blackface with our community values is certainly legitimate, the lack of formal proceedings grants Honor Council an unreasonable amount of authority in distinguishing what constitutes a violation of the Code and its corresponding punishment. In its current state, the “Social Responsibilities” section of the Social Honor Code places communal values and pluralism in stark contrast with each other, demanding a commitment either to the protection of minority interests or to the fundamentals of free speech and expression, and therefore generates unnecessary internal conflict.

The solution to ameliorating such a dilemma entails thoughtful commitment to our values of pluralism and mutual respect. By divesting Honor Code of the ability to pass judgement on Social Code and establishing formal procedures to treat potential violations, we can afford increased protections to individuals irrespective of their opinions’ popularity. To create these procedural regulations, I recommend the formation of a Free Speech Committee, whose mission would be to align Haverford’s Social Honor Code with existing Supreme Court precedent as closely as possible. To ensure that the interests of all minority groups on campus are represented, such a committee would entail proportionate representation on basis of race, gender, and ideology on campus. As “members of a diverse community” who “seek mutual understanding by means of respectful communication” and believe in “resolving conflicts by engaging each other in dialogue,” it suits our aims to edit establish such procedures and redouble our efforts to protect and promote free speech on Haverford’s campus.(12) By protecting those we disagree with and the most unpopular opinions, we ensure that no injustice is committed in the name of subjective standards of public decency, morality, or security because, in the words of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”(13)

(1) https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/505/377

(2) Ibid

(3) Ibid

(4) Ibid

(5) Ibid

(6) http://honorcouncil.haverford.edu/the-code/

(7) http://honorcouncil.haverford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/themuppets.pdf

(8) Ibid

(9) Ibid

(10) https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/505/377

(11) http://honorcouncil.haverford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/themuppets.pdf

(12) http://honorcouncil.haverford.edu/the-code/

(13) https://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html

 

To write a response to this article, e-mail our Editor-in-Chief Maurice Rippel at mrippel@haverford.edu.

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24 Responses

  1. Alicia Lopez-Torres says:

    The use of blackface is not a matter of opinion. It is historically racist. Racism should be punished.

    • David Canada says:

      Alicia,
      First, I would like to thank you for your comment. I believe it brings up an important point in the discussion of this topic.

      While I personally share your sentiments on the racist nature of blackface, I cannot agree that its determination as racist is “not a matter of opinion.” It is our subjective judgement that the action itself, due to the historical implications it carries, is racist. I agree that racism is morally reprehensible– that is not the issue here. The problem is that, currently, the portion of the Honor Code in question provides for the usage of subjective determination to levy institutional punishments, allowing for the implementation and institution of viewpoint discrimination.
      I agree that racism should be “punished” at Haverford, but not institutionally. If one of our goals, as stated in the part of Code I am critiquing, is to fight ideological discrimination (therefore providing for an environment conducive for discourse) then we are acting counterintuitively to that mission. Outside of the specific verbiage of Section 3.04, if we wish to effectively combat racism, forcing individuals into silence through the threat of institutional punishment is not the approach we should take as a community; this is tantamount to gilding coal or painting a rotten fence. Rather, through protected discourse (i.e. that which is not subject to institutional sanctions) as determined by the Supreme Court, we can speak freely, critique one another, and find common ground or arrive at a mutual understanding of difference. The problem with acting as a moral arbiter per subjective judgement is that it results in de facto ideological “tyranny of the majority”, stifles campus conversation, and skirts around these difficult issues rather than critically engaging with them.

      Sincerely,
      David

  2. Eliana von Krusenstiern says:

    The fact that your major argument rests on a Supreme Court case that granted the right to burn a cross on a black family’s lawn is both horrifying and very telling.
    You fail to acknowledge the power dynamic that exists along with these words/actions. People who say racist/homophobic/islamophobic/etc. things are *in a position of power*. They come from the majority, that has literally been oppressing these groups and denying their right to exist. Their words and actions do not exist in a vacuum — they exist alongside a long history of oppression and violence, and therefore are based in oppression and violence. Burning crosses was not just a casual, random act of speaking ones mind — it was an act meant to terrorize black Americans, make them fear for their lives, and make them feel unsafe in their homes. That goes past free speech;it is an act of terrorism. Let us not forget that the same people who burned crosses also brutally murdered black Americans, *and got away with it*. To even suggest that people who say/do racist things are oppressed in any manner is ludicrous, as they are the group that has been wrongly protected by the law for centuries. It is laughable to say that anger towards offensive remarks is the “tyranny of the majority” when the leader of our country himself was elected on a platform of racism and islamophobia.
    To bring this into the context of Haverford: when people say and do racist/islamophobic/homophobic things on Haverford’s campus, their words are rooted in a very long history of violence and oppression, and they are making this space unsafe for minority groups. Our community has made the decision to place the safety of minority students over the rights of privilege students to say whatever they want. You cannot compare anger/offensive remarks towards minority groups to anger towards these remarks themselves. The latter is anger against a hateful opinion while the former is anger against people’s human identities. *The two are not at all the same*. When your “beliefs” threaten the safety and wellbeing of another human, they do not deserve protection and preservation about the protection and preservation of human beings and human identities.

    • David Canada says:

      Eliana,

      As I explained in the article, the Court recognized this act as morally reprehensible in its proceedings, a belief I also espouse. The debate in RAV v. St. Paul was not centered on the legality of the individual’s action, under anti-arson laws, intimidation laws, and property destruction laws he was certainly performing an illegal act. The problem was the exact statute he was tried for, which attempted to punish the teen for his message’s content, not for his actions. Attempting to formally pass this punishment was unanimously viewed as a violation of his First Amendment rights and, thus, the case was overturned. So, in short, I agree that this was an illegal act meant to unduly terrorize a black family and that this is a disgusting display of racism; however, it is not legitimate to try an individual on the content of their speech and the action itself should have been targeted.
      Second, I recognize that these actions do not exist in a vacuum, that is a fairly evident and legitimate point to make. However, I must I agree with the Supreme Court in this instance that “communicating to minority groups that it does not condone the ‘group hatred’ of bias-motivated speech does not justify selectively silencing speech on the basis of its content.” Allowing for viewpoint discrimination rather than upholding the First Amendment as an absolute for any reason, regardless of its intention, invites potentially insidious subjectivity. My examples, as I clarified in the article, of institutionalized genocide, cleansing, and segregation serves as an enumeration upon this danger by highlighting the same foundational issue, not making direct comparisons. For example, in the Jim Crow South, the white majority believed integration represented a threat to their security. This sentiment is also reflected in Germany, Turkey, Rwanda, Iran, and Iraq in the persecution of Jews, Armenians, Tutsis, followers of the Baha’i faith, and the Kurds. In each example, certain segments of the population were systematically targeted and treated in flagrantly despicable manners due to the perception that they represented threats to certain interests.
      Third, you mention that it is “laughable to say that anger towards offensive remarks is ‘tyranny of the majority.’” The issue at hand is not anger. I support and myself would express anger at such a display. The problem here is that the subjective feeling and judgement we make towards the message in that speech is institutionalized in Section 3.04 of our Honor Code. It is “tyranny of the majority” to punish individuals for expressing messages we deem offensive because we cannot act as moral arbiters and punish messages based on our personal or communal convictions. Allowing such institutional viewpoint discrimination to persist in our Code allows for subjective silencing which, as I have suggested in my comment to Alicia, is counterintuitive to our comment to pluralism and to confronting and truly erasing these societal ills.
      Overall, I am not saying that hate speech should be openly endorsed on campus. I am offering a perspective which defends such speech in the name of equality and discourse. Let us not forget, that this First Amendment right protects activism (with limitations naturally set by Supreme Court precedent) from silencing by ideological majorities. My reason for including the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King does not derive solely from my admiration, but is intended to serve as an exemplar of why we should allow for such speech even if the majority in a given situation find it a threat to security.
      I would like to thank you for your comment as I do believe it provides important insight into this conversation, even if we disagree on certain points.

      Sincerely,
      David

  3. Angelique Spencer says:

    Before I can make a verbose argument regarding this piece of yours, I strongly advise you to define who you are referring to when talking about who is experiencing “viewpoint discrimination” and what the so-called “unpopular opinions” or “minority opinions” because these vague references just make for a very flimsy and poorly executed argument that you’re failing to make.

    By the way, Blackface reinforces harmful, one-dimensional, and problematic stereotypes of Black people, the same ones that justify their lack of social mobility and ultimately, their deaths. So no, it’s not a matter of opinion on whether it’s racist or not. The history (which you seem to lack understanding in, among so many other things) does not lie.

    • David Canada says:

      Angelique,

      Perhaps we disagree, but I believe that no individual should be subject to viewpoint discrimination in law (which our Honor Code somewhat represents here at Haverford) regardless of their ideology, race, creed, or any other identifying factor. If you believe that my argument is flimsy and poorly executed I invite you to critique the portions in question. I am always open to learning new aspects to this issue and, if I am incorrect on any point, ready to admit my mistake and work towards greater understanding.
      As I have said in the other two responses to comments, I agree entirely with your statements on the harmful history behind blackface and how its perpetuation reflects dangerous undercurrents still present within our society. I also believe we can mutually agree that it is a racist act. My point in the article is that, even though it is racist, it should still be protected under the auspices of the First Amendment (with Supreme Court precedence accounted for). My problem is with institutional punishments in response to messages contained in speech. As I stated in my response to Eliana, the importance of this right lies in its universality; this same civil right protects all minority activists in this nation and its not limited to what we may consider the reprehensible acts of speech.
      Thank you for your comment, as it includes perspective on this issue which is important to shaping the discourse surrounding it.

      Sincerely,
      David

  4. Sergio Diaz says:

    Hi David,

    I too believe that Haverford should be able to engage in deliberate dialogue without persecuting opinions worth of First Amendment protections. Haverford conservatives ought to have their opinions respected and not face discrimination or generalizations on account of their opinions. However, that is where the extent of the agreement ends. In citing R.A.V. v St. Paul you are drawing a parallel between the Constitution and the Honor Code’s Social Responsibility. The logical argument that follows is inherently flawed because there is a clear distinction between the two that is supported in .

    In R.A.V. the ordinance in question was written with precise clarification to limit actions regarding symbols or objects on the basis of race, gender, religion by a misdemeanor offense. This very clearly limits a certain action based on the content without regard to the intent or object itself. This was found to be an unconstitutional encroachment on free speech because it limited action regardless. I quote the ordinance below:

    “Whoever places on public or private property, a symbol, object, appellation, characterization or graffiti, including, but not limited to, a burning cross or Nazi swastika, which one knows or has reasonable grounds to know arouses anger, alarm or resentment in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion or gender commits disorderly conduct and shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”

    The Honor Code, on the other hand, is written with a clear and definite goal to recognize that “discrimination and harassment” are intolerable actions with respect to discrimination and harassment that includes racism, sexism, homophobia, etc and in so carrying out these actions are violations of the Honor Code. I quote the Honor Code below:

    “We recognize that acts of discrimination and harassment, including, but not limited to, acts of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ableism, discrimination based on religion or political ideology, and discrimination based on national origin or English capability are devoid of respect and therefore, by definition, violate this Code. Upon encountering actions or values that we find degrading to ourselves and to others, we should initiate dialogue with the goal of increasing mutual understanding.”

    The difference between limiting certain actions which is a violation of the First Amendment as St. Paul’s ordinance, and rules limiting harassment and discrimination in general terms which are protected by the First Amendment could not be starker. You conflate the two in a dangerous way and do not give adequate study to their differences. The Honor Code is not limiting the action of dressing up as blackface, nor the action of planting a swatstika on Founders Green. It merely creates guidelines by which the action could be dealt with adequately when it is clear that it is discriminatory or harassing to another party at Haverford. To think that the Honor Code violates the First Amendment by requiring our student body to adequately think before they speak is misguided.

    In the Muppets Honor Code abstract, it is clear that the decision to dress in an inappropriate fashion invoking, whether with or without intention, the historic representation of minstrel shows and blackface was an act of harassment to those on campus threatened and hurt by that ill-thought decision. The Honor Code respects differing opinions, but does not tolerate harassment or discrimination which provoke violence.

    So why does the Muppets Action not receive First Amendment protection? Chapinskly v. New Hampshire (1942) established a long-standing precedent called the “fighting words” doctrine which does not provide First-Amendment protection to “insulting or ‘fighting words,’ those that by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.” What does this exactly mean? It means that words or actions by their very nature, whether intentionally or not, create injury or insult are not protected by the First Amendment. The Muppets Abstract action clearly violates this standard and therefore would not muster protection under the First Amendment.

    By linking the Honor Code and the St. Paul ordinance you have drawn attention to a classification and have ignored the way that the action by the parties in the Muppets are classified as “fighting words” for those party damaged by the action.

    I truly believe that people’s opinions should be respected, including those of the far-right. However, when actions or words incite violence and further polarize parties taking away from dialogue we are disregarding the Honor Code and it’s intentions.

    Best,
    Sergio

    • David Canada says:

      I originally and mistakenly posted the following as a general comment, not as one in response to this comment, so I have moved it to respond to you directly.

      Sergio,

      This quotation regarding R.A.V. v. St. Paul is indeed an important line in the case; however, the statement is not commenting on the message of the speech itself. The Supreme Court explicitly states that St. Paul’s prosecution under this statute is a violation of First Amendment rights because it targets the message contained in the action instead of the action itself. Essentially, this statement is acknowledging that the action associated with the speech is illegitimate, but affirms that the speech behind the action itself is protected. In the context of the case, it was an illegal action for the teenager to damage the property of the family and, because the speech manifested itself in this medium, if St. Paul tried him for property destruction, regardless of the message behind it, it would be considered outside the protections of the First Amendment. However, since the ordinance targeted the speech itself rather than the action by which it was expressed, it was an illegal violation of the First Amendment due to the viewpoint discrimination implicit in the law.
      Moving on to Haverford specifically, the same principle would apply. While we may certainly condemn actions themselves as illegitimate, (for example destruction of property) and consider them punishable we cannot, in my opinion and in keeping with Supreme Court precedence, deem these actions illicit on the basis of the message contained within them. The methods by which Bert and Ernie expressed their speech did not manifest themselves illegally through property destruction or another disallowed method; thus, their condemnation was not on the basis of the actions by which they expressed their speech, but were on the message behind their speech. By virtue of this fact, it would not be a legitimate punishment under the First Amendment.
      Furthermore, contrary to what you have stated, the action in The Muppets is protected under the auspices of the First Amendment. Once again, consideration of how speech is expressed is important to our considerations to its legitimacy. While “fighting words” under Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, remains an important aspect of determining constitutional protection under free speech there have been numerous cases relating to that topic which have narrowed the definition of fighting words from its original iteration to its modern form. For example, in Street v. New York, a 1969 Supreme Court case, the Supreme Court ruled flag-burning constitutionally protected, stating that offensiveness does not qualify as fighting words. In addition, Snyder v. Phelps, a Supreme Court case from 2011, upheld public speech that was not directed towards a specific individual, but served as a public display. For these two reasons, the action in The Muppets is constitutionally protected and does not qualify as “fighting words” even if it was blatantly offensive and, in my opinion, morally wrong.
      It is important to emphasize that I am against institutional punishments by Honor Council, not against the expression of communal disapproval of speech or action. I am arguing against the Honor Code’s current form because it invites viewpoint discrimination in determining institutional punishments., not because of the values it strives for.

      I would like to thank you for this critique as I have thanked others. Engaging in discourse is immensely important to our ability to function as a pluralistic community.

      Sincerely,
      David

  5. Rebecca Seeley says:

    So this is a quickly and shoddily constructed rebuttal to this article and I’m not asking for a reply or an argument, I just want you to think a little bit harder about what you think you’re saying. To be clear, David, Haverford is not a country. It is a private school. The honor council and honor code is not in any manner affiliated with the US government and are also not precedent based even within their own bodies. While Haverford attempts to have diversity of experience and opinion, hate is not something that we are required to include in this diversity. Schools have rules that go outside the scope of the law. They are exclusive, and they are allowed to be. I’m not sure how your high school worked, but at mine, which by the way was public and thus had to let in everyone regardless of their agreement with the rules, if you said something hateful and someone reported it, you were punished, and rightfully so. The condemnation of hate and disrespect should not be controversial. The article of the honor code you so abhor literally is just trying to codify respect for the identities of others. It doesn’t say minority opinions are to be quashed, and it doesn’t say you can be punished for thinking differently. It says you shouldn’t be mean to your peers, and that is just a general rule for most institutions. Is it illegal to be mean? Obviously not, but that doesn’t mean that there cannot be social consequences, and Haverford is kind of a social construct if you think about it, like a club. Would you argue that a student who uses a racial slur against a teacher should not be punished? They wouldn’t get arrested, but I don’t think it’s out of line for honor council to ask people to take a critical look at their actions and their place in society. At other schools a student could be kicked out for actions that you argue should not have been punished by the assignment of an essay. Also do not compare the condemnation of hate speech to genocides. It trivializes the death of so many people. The Jews weren’t killed because people thought it was “morally right.” They were killed because hatred of them was normalized through loud hateful political speech. If only there had been some rule about hate speech…

    • David Canada says:

      Rebecca,

      While you stated that you are not asking for a reply or argument, I will provide one because I believe you bring up valid and important points to this discussion. I did consider this fact while constructing my argument and writing this article. The problem I ran into, both in Haverford’s public commitment to discourse and free speech and in Section 3.04’s provision against “ideological” discrimination, was that these commitments are, in fact, limited on the basis of communal concerns, resulting in potential viewpoint discrimination from Honor Council when confronted by speech we subjectively find offensive at trial. The problem with saying hate is not allowed is that our opinion of hate and offense are inherently based on our personal judgements. This leads to my point about genocide. In the situations mentioned, the parallel was drawn solely to compare this treatment of majority opinion as an authoritative one. For example, we may say that eliminating speech like that in The Muppets is justifiable on the basis of protecting minorities here at Haverford. My response to that, to illustrate the problems with this view, is that this was the same justification given in the dehumanizing actions mentioned in the article. To refer to your example, Jews in Hitler’s Germany were killed because they were seen as counteractive to the security interests of the broader community. To offer another, black individuals in the Jim Crow South were dehumanized and excluded from equal treatment because the white majority believed that desegregation was a threat to their security.
      As I have mentioned before, this is specifically against institutional action; it does not take issue with peaceful expression or peaceful communal expression against actions that we find offensive.

      Thank you for taking the time to draft this response.

      Sincerely,
      David Canada

  6. Anonymous Ford says:

    Hi David,

    I just wanted to leave a comment of support in a sea of disagreement. I’m also a freshman and a member of the mystical, rarely seen and even more rarely heard, group of conservatives at ‘Ford. Free speech may be suppressed at Haverford, both institutionally and otherwise, but we can take comfort in the fact that we live in a country (whose laws undoubtedly surpass in importance the precepts of the Honor Code) that refuses to legislate morality and instead chooses to uphold the principles of freedom. This comment introduces nothing new into this conversation, I just wanted to let you know that there is at least one other Ford who agrees with you. Keep fighting the good fight while I and the rest of the less brave closet conservatives on campus keep our mouths shut :).

  7. A Conservative Student says:

    David,
    As a conservative college student, I found your article to be very insightful and refreshing. Many of the opinion pieces from campus newspapers these days are full of politically correct language because students have become fearful of exercising their right to free speech. At Haverford, it seems that right is only given to those who conform to the views of the majority. (Liberals/Leftists) I believe that a free society can only succeed if citizens are given equal rights to free speech — regardless of their opinions. The government and the academy should not be in the business of regulating ideas nor social norms, and it seems that Haverford is doing exactly that. Keep up the good work!

  8. Brittany Steele says:

    OK, I’m not even going to address every issue I see in this article because it’s late and I’m also not sure you’ll be all that receptive to what I have to say.

    1. Freedom of Speech does not mean what you say or communicate will not have consequences. You are essentially advocating that anyone can say anything they want (in any way they would like) and it should not have institutional consequences. Would you say that for example cursing out a professor, staff or administrative member should have no institutional consequence? If your answer is anything other than “yes” then I would hazard that what you are taking issue with in the Muppets trial is not Bert and Ernie’s freedom of expression but rather the validity of the threat to the confronting party or the base level of human respect that the confronting party deserves.

    2. You continually cite “viewpoint discrimination” as your issue with this trial. Ignoring for a moment how racist the cross burning incident you use for comparison is, the burning cross symbolized a viewpoint. What were Bert and Ernie trying to say in this case? According to them their costumes were good natured fun, they were not trying to make a statement or express anything – so how could this possibly be a matter of viewpoint discrimination?

    3. Now here’s where things get personal (for me, not you). As a black woman I want you to know that I found it very difficult to read this passage as anything other than thinly veiled racism (and sexism). You literally write:

    “Although appeals to the perceived threat to the security and sense of acceptance of black and female students like Zoe’s are important in our self-consideration of our actions, I do not believe that these concerns are substantial grounds for subjecting fellow students with minority opinions to unequal standards within our Code.”

    This statement pretty much boils down to ‘While considering the security of black people and women is important, I don’t think it’s a legitimate reason to hold people who disagree that their security is important unfairly accountable under the honor code’.

    First of all, where is your evidence that their ‘punishment’ is unfair? Cuz this isn’t the American judicial system so the supreme Court is literally irrelevant. Even if it was, I’ve already discussed why your “viewpoint discrimination” argument doesn’t apply here. Secondly, I’m not sure if you are aware or not since you are a first year but Honor Council is not a precedent based body, so you wouldn’t be able to even find an honor council abstract to provide a precedent in the fashion you are trying to use the supreme Court case.

    Moving on, honor council did not ‘punish’ them, they attempted to do what they do in every trial – address accountability, education and community restoration. I frankly don’t have the patience to explain how those goals differ from punishment but they are not at all interchangeable.

    Now that it’s been addressed that they weren’t punished and the institutionalized actions against them were not unfair in the context of Haverford College I would like to ask the following: why do you think the security of black people and women is so unimportant that two insensitive boys having to write a paper about their own place society (to help educate them about why those black people and women felt so threatened by their actions) seems so outrageously objectionable to you? Do you really think we can forsake the security of black people and women and still have the inclusive community based on concern, respect and trust that we were all promised?

    4. Did you actually thoroughly read the portion of the honor code in section 3.04? Because if you did you will notice that it covers ‘political ideology’ as a protected clause. If you feel like people are violating that clause then it is your responsibility as a Haverford student to confront them about it. Should people be harassing Trump supporters just because they are Trump supporters? Absolutely not – But that clause is not your enemy in achieving that goal, it is your grounds for having the matter addressed. The whole point of that clause is to give people from all marginalized groups on Haverford’s campus a voice. People violating that clause does not somehow mean that enacting accountability for your words and actions is the problem – it means the lack of accountability being enacted is.

    A side note: The clause of the social code you cite at the beginning of this article was ratified at Spring Plenary in 2015. The Muppets trial and it’s proceedings occurred long before that clause existed. I was one of the people who wrote and presented it.

    • David Canada says:

      Brittany,
      1. As I specified in my response to Sergio last night, I am not defending Freedom of Speech in “any way they would like.” As seen Sergio’s quote concerning R.A.V. v. St. Paul, the Court did take issue with the teen’s method of expression because it inherently violated the property of the family. While St. Paul could have prosecuted the teen through arson laws or intimidation laws, they chose to prosecute him under a statute which targeted the contents of his message rather than the illicit actions he perpetrated. As established by Supreme Court precedent, there are several limitations to First Amendment rights, including, but not limited to, “yelling fire in a crowded theatre” and “fighting words.” In the case of The Muppets, while blackface is unquestionably morally reprehensible, the issue I take is that the individuals were prosecuted based on the content of their speech. You do, however, bring up an important issue concerning limits to speech. My proposition is to integrate Supreme Court precedent into established procedures for trying individuals under this provision. I am personally unsure whether or not this situation has been dealt with in the past, but I feel that the job of the Free Speech Commission would be to research this precedent and survey the exact college policies that may regulate such an issue, hopefully resulting in a solution by consensus amongst its members.
      2. Bert and Ernie, as they stated in the trial, viewed their act as a joke between themselves and their friends and it is important to note that they portrayed themselves as two specific black female popstars. By explicitly mentioning their intention to satirize or parody themselves through their portrayal of these individuals, their message, although flippant and morally detestable, falls under the protections of free speech. Furthermore, you ask how this could be an instance of viewpoint discrimination. Let us consider the following hypothetical (the former instance actually occurred): A homosexual student decides to dress as a “straight person” for Halloween, stereotypically portraying a specific opinion about these individuals. I doubt that Honor Council would convict them, rather, it would be explained away as satire and in good fun. However, if a straight student decided to dress as a “gay person” for Halloween, stereotypically portraying a specific opinion about these individuals, I do not doubt for a second their condemnation and conviction under the Honor Code. This is but one example of viewpoint discrimination.
      3. I understand your concerns. As a person of color, though I am not trying to exactly equate our experiences, I understand that this is a difficult topic. My argument against viewpoint discrimination is that its suppresses ideological minorities on campus with the potential threat of subjective and selective implementations of institutional punishment. This is where we probably disagree. I believe, as the Supreme Court posited in R.A.V. v. St. Paul, that our desire to convey security to certain members of the community is not a legitimate justification for silencing opinions that individuals may personally find offensive. Not every instance and action is as “cut-and-dry” as blackface, so to treat the issue as such misses the point on the insidiousness of the current lack of procedures in our Code. Furthermore, as I have written to multiple individuals, the issue here is not between a discrepancy in our goals to strive towards the ideals enshrined in our Social Code, the issue is that we disagree on the approach. I personally believe discourse, although it can be difficult, discomforting, and, in some instances, outright offensive, is the best methodology to approaching our stance against societal ills. To me, silencing opposition not only creates an unrealistic representation of opinion at Haverford, but also prevents these issues from being adequately discussed. For me, silencing people with the threat of potential institutional punishment merely forces individuals into echo chambers, further radicalizing opinions on campus on certain issues. If we wish to have open discourse, ideological minorities must have fundamental protections against subjective determinations of violation and the subsequent institutional punishment.

      My evidence that the punishment is unfair can be displayed through the construction of a hypothetical. Let’s presume this campus is dominated by religious groups who believe abortion is a sin, consider pro-choice advocacy to be devoid of respect under the Honor Code, and there are not institutionalized procedures to protect your individual right to speech and expression, instead the institution governing you, dominated by those who perceive your action as a threat to stability and community values, merely enshrines this viewpoint discrimination. Upon your unanimous conviction, you are required to organize a panel concerning pro-life viewpoints, write an eight page research paper on “The Role of Abortion in America,” with a proscribed outlook on the topic, and draft a public apology to the community announcing values that they may espouse but you do not. Would you consider this restoration, or punishment? Would you consider this unbiased and equitable education, or compulsory ideological falsification or indoctrination? The procedures I am arguing for would protect an individual in this situation just as it would protect those who masqueraded in blackface in The Muppets.
      4. Yes, I did thoroughly read the portion of the Honor Code in Section 3.04 and noted the protection of “political ideology” as a protected clause. The important distinction here is that, while they are often conflated, the de jure law and its de facto operation are disparate realities. In this case, while the Honor Code posits a protection for political dissent, it, in fact, does not exist due to the current lack of procedures concerning Social Honor Code violations which allow for the institutionalization of viewpoint discrimination. What I am critiquing here is not the sentiment or the goal associated with the clause—obviously, it is laudable and necessary for us to strive in this manner. However, I, once again, must express my issue with the lack of procedure associated with the actual application of this clause. I believe enumeration on a slightly different, but also controversial, topic can serve as a means of comparison.
      Sexual assault and rape are obviously not welcome and we as a community must strive to combat these sordid social ills. However, definitions on what actually constitute sexual assault and rape vary widely, necessitating an attempt at procedures which try to treat both parties, the accuser and the accused, equally. If we operated by what the majority of people believed here at Haverford or in the wider society, I believe we would see an unacceptable subjective definition of this crime. Rather than allowing majority morality to operate as an arbiter of morality, Haverford College, while its policies are by no means perfect, has made an attempt to regulate these proceedings by established procedures while attempting to abide by the principle that rape and sexual assault are unwelcome in this community. This same implementation of protective procedures is what I am arguing for, not necessarily against the values you are your co-sponsors originally put forth in this resolution two years ago.
      Addressing your side note, I recognized this fact in the article by stating:
      “even before the implementation of the aforementioned portion of the code in 2015, its underlying rationale served as the basis for de facto institutional censorship against two students in the infamous 2004 Honor Council trial The Muppets.”
      Thank you for your time, and for further shedding light on the often nuanced difficulties that often come along with free speech and expression. This is a difficult conversation in general and I appreciate you publicly confronting my ideas in this fashion as it allows for us to hold open discourse.
      Sincerely,
      David

  9. Anonymous Ford says:

    Hi David,
    I don’t want to wade into the ethical and moral debates that we could go into. I just want to point out that an oft-overlooked point is that the first amendment is technically only a restriction on the Federal Government. Indeed, in the very text itself it says “Congress shall make no law.” It was only later (I’m a little shaky on my history here, so I forget the specific amendment) after the Civil War that the Bill of Rights was extended to apply to state governments as well. However, as a private institution I do not think there is actually a legal binding for Haverford to follow the first amendment. It is the same idea that applies to private businesses–as far as I am aware, there is nothing from stopping them from firing employees who speak badly of the company (note that this is different from whistleblowers, who are people who expose illegal actions of their employers and are legally protected from being fired out of retribution). Returning to Haverford, this means that our honor code is allowed to be as wide-ranging or limited in scope as the student body as a whole wishes it to be.

    • David Canada says:

      Concerned Haverfordian,

      Thank you for bringing this up! As you have correctly stated, the obligations of a private institution indeed are not the same as public universities or private corporations due to their right to freedom of assembly; however, this does not mean that Haverford is not legally or morally bound to respect these rights. In fact, there is a trove of legal precedent protecting this right on campus. When Haverford, as an institution, advertises itself as upholding a certain belief, through admissions materials, public statements from our President, or other means, it enters into a contract with its students to abide by these public declarations. On the fifth page of one Haverford brochure, the first statement concerning academics is that “A Haverford education is about writing and speaking, problem solving, expanding and contrasting ideas, and learning how to think.” Three pages later, the brochure highlights that “Your four years at Haverford will be spent wrestling with ideas, concepts, and problems…and pushing and being pushed to learn and grow in every way.” Thus, in the public brochures it issues, Haverford posits its commitment to discourse, the promulgation of ideas, and working through difference intellectually without suppressing contrasting ideas.
      Furthermore, in a relatively recent article, Andrew Eaddy reports the words of our College President Kim Benston, which reaffirm Haverford’s commitment institutional commitment to these ideals:
      “We need to have the highest possible toleration of ideas we find difficult,” said Benston. “We have no business shutting down someone else’s opinion by ‘profiling’ that person politically, economically, socially, or ethnically. But by ‘toleration’ I don’t mean we should simply grit our teeth in silence after hearing a debatable opinion. I mean that we should be willing to engage with contrary ideas––or respond to such engagement––in a respectful and deliberative way.”
      The institution, through these types of declarations, commits itself to the promotion of discourse without reductive profiling. If there is a violation of this public commitment, there is also a violation of the contract between student and institution. While I cannot explicitly remark on how Haverford would fare in a court of law on this matter, as these commitments are also supplanted by commitments to subjective determinations of mutual respect within our community in the brochure and website, I can confidently, and happily, state that I believe Haverford has committed itself to the ideals of free speech alongside its devotion to respect. At this point, the matter is where we draw the line, which, as I stated in my article, is in my opinion currently inappropriately drawn by Section 3.04 of the Honor Code due to the viewpoint discrimination stemming from its lack of procedures.

      Here is the brochure I am referencing and a link that further enumerates on the contentiousness of private institution obligations to speech! For the second link proceed to the second section to view the portion on private institutions.

      https://www.haverford.edu/sites/default/files/Haverford-College-Viewbook.pdf

      https://www.thefire.org/in-court/state-of-the-law-speech-codes/

      Sincerely,
      David

      • Anonymous Ford says:

        Hi David,
        You claim that there is legal precedent for protecting free speech on campuses. I would love to see some examples.

        Furthermore, since you bring in legal precedent I would like to note that even federally there are exceptions to free speech, libel and slander among them. I would also like to note that many of the things under section 3.04, such as sexism and racism, are also federally prohibited activities and could well be viewed as hate crimes. As such, the honor code as it stands, including the part about standing against racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. actually falls pretty well in line with federal law.

        • David Canada says:

          Concerned Haverfordian,

          Of course! There are several examples contained in the “FIRE” link I provided in the previous comment, but, for the sake of ease and in case it is not working, I can copy and paste those sections here. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which dedicates itself to protecting due process, speech, and other rights on college campuses throughout the nation:
          “Unlike public universities, which are of course government actors, private universities are not legally obligated to uphold the First Amendment rights of students on campus. In fact, private universities have a First Amendment freedom of assembly right to determine for themselves the terms of matriculation, within certain legal limits. However, many-in fact, most-private colleges and universities advertise themselves as bastions of free and liberal learning, where all viewpoints can be expressed, discussed, and debated. Most private universities promise their students extensive speech rights in school materials such as student handbooks, recruiting brochures, and codes of conduct.
          When a school, public or private, makes a promise to a student-whether in a student handbook or a brochure or a speech from the president-that school is morally and legally bound to honor that promise. Courts have held in several cases that private institutions must live up to these types of promises, based on a “contract theory.” See Havlik v. Johnson & Wales University, 509 F.3d 25, 34 (1st Cir. 2007) (“The relevant terms of the contractual relationship between a student and a university typically include language found in the university’s student handbook….We interpret such contractual terms in accordance with the parties’ reasonable expectations, giving those terms the meaning that the university reasonably should expect the student to take from them.”); Ross v. Creighton University, 957 F.2d 410, 416 (7th Cir. 1992) (“It is held generally in the United States that the ‘basic legal relation between a student and private university or college is contractual in nature. The catalogues, bulletins, circulars, and regulations of the institution made available to the matriculant become a part of the contract.’”); Corso v. Creighton University, 731 F.2d 529, 531 (8th Cir. 1984) (“The relationship between a university and a student is contractual in nature.”); McConnell v. Le Moyne College, 808 N.Y.S.2d 860 (N.Y. App. Div. 2006) (holding that Le Moyne College must act in accordance with the due process provisions of its student catalogue); Schaer v. Brandeis University, 735 N.E.2d 373 (Mass. 2000) (recognizing contractual relationship between student and university, and employing “‘the standard of reasonable expectation — what meaning the party making the manifestation, the university, should reasonably expect the other party to give it.’”) (internal quotation omitted); Tedeschi v. Wagner College, 49 N.Y.2d 652 (Ct. App. 1980) (holding that “when a university has adopted a rule or guideline establishing the procedure to be followed in relation to suspension or expulsion that procedure must be substantially observed.”).
          In some cases, however, courts have ruled that student handbooks and other related materials are non-binding or need not be precisely followed. See Pacella v. Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, 66 F. Supp. 2d 234 (D. Mass. 1999) (ruling that the provisions of the student handbook were not contractually binding on the university in part because the university could unilaterally modify them without notice); Love v. Duke University, 776 F. Supp. 1070 (M.D.N.C. 1991), aff’d, 959 F.2d 231 (4th Cir. 1992) (holding that Duke University’s academic bulletin was not a binding contract); Romeo v. Seton Hall University, 378 N.J. Super. 384, 395 (App. Div. 2005) (“A contractual relationship cannot be based on isolated provisions in a student manual….[A] private religious university’s values and mission must be left to the discretion of the university.”). In spite of these decisions, the weight of the precedent is favored toward recognizing university-student relationships as contractual in nature and holding universities accountable for the promises they make to students in handbooks and other related materials. The “contract theory” is therefore a viable and judicially recognized means of enforcing students’ free speech rights at private colleges and universities. See Kelly Sarabyn, Free Speech at Private Universities, 39 J.L. & Educ. 145 (2010) (analyzing restrictions of free speech at private institutions in violation of stated policy, and arguing that contract theory provides the best legal mechanism for holding universities accountable for such violations).
          As a private entity with its own institutional First Amendment rights, a private college may choose to define itself as being committed to values other than free speech, as long as the school makes it publicly and consistently clear that it holds a certain set of values above a commitment to free speech. For example, Brigham Young University (BYU) is quite forthright in its stated policies that students entering BYU are not guaranteed robust free speech rights. One BYU policy says the following about free expression: “[T]he exercise of individual and institutional academic freedom must be a matter of reasonable limitations. In general, at BYU a limitation is reasonable when the faculty behavior or expression seriously and adversely affects the university mission or the Church.” It would be clear to anyone attending BYU that they are not entitled to unfettered free speech on campus. If a private college clearly does not promise free speech, and the college makes this known publicly and consistently, entering students have given informed consent and have voluntarily chosen to limit their own rights-in much the same way students entering military academies or theological seminaries understand that they are relinquishing many rights they would enjoy at a state college.”
          As you can see, this is not a clear-cut issue of “Haverford is completely exempt” or “Haverford must abide exactly by the First Amendment.” It is true that Haverford has expressed values as an institution that can, through various interpretations, be conflicting in different situations. If it came to a court decision, which I hope it never does, Haverford would be forced to announce its commitment to one value over the other, a decision that would be deleterious to the institution and the students either way. My reason for recommending the incorporation of Supreme Court precedent is because I believe that it would be a better system to implement our values than what currently exist. In many ways, I do not believe that our value of self-governance conflict with the addition of procedure; rather, it would actualize our commitment to Section 3.04 more effectively.
          I would like to enumerate here upon one specific conversation a Free Speech Commission may have in deciding how to incorporate First Amendment rights and create a set of procedures to try individuals for violations of the Social Honor Code. Let’s presume that the Commission is looking at Miller v. California, a Supreme Court case from 1973. One of the outcomes of this trial was the “Miller Test” to determine if speech is allowable or “obscene.” The reason this test is interesting is because it draws from community standards, but also protects the rights of certain speech acts against moral majority prosecution. Ignoring the second portion of the test, as this issue does not always relate to “sexual conduct or excretory functions,” the third and first portion seek to find balance between community standards and individual protections. Removing the portion concerning “prurient interest”, the first part of the determination involves “the average person, applying contemporary community standards.” The third portion states that if the work, in total consideration, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value, it is unprotected by the First Amendment. Through incorporating these rules into considerations of procedure, the commission could interpret this to mean that, if the average person at Haverford felt that an act was a violation of the Code and it lacked in these categories of value, there would be a violation of the Code. This is one potential interpretation and, I believe, that, whatever outcomes were achieved, it is important that the commission be comprised of a diverse group of individuals and decisions be reached through consensus. This would prevent domination by a racial, sexual, or ideological majority and, hopefully, result in a clear set of procedures by which to try individuals under the Code and protect against the subjective rulings of Honor Council.
          To move away from this tangent, I would like to say you have correctly mentioned that there are federal laws against sexism and racism. I agree that these are beneficial to our society and that actively pursuing ends to illegitimate and integrated systems of discrimination is necessary to the functioning of society. To my knowledge, and please correct me if I am wrong in saying this, those laws target the institutionalization of those ideologies in various forms, though, as we can see with voting rights and gerrymandering, these laws still need to be developed against certain abuses. The law does not, and once again correct me if I am wrong, forbid individuals from holding or expressing racist or sexist beliefs as long as this expression does not violate other laws or the various restrictions on First Amendment rights. Otherwise, arguably, we would have many individuals currently in White House positions behind bars. Thank you for taking the time to respond!

          Sincerely,
          David Canada

  10. Anonymous Haverfordian says:

    Hi David,

    I disagree with a lot of the points you make but I really appreciate that you wrote this article. Anything to challenge the tsunami of nonsense that a loud minority on the fringe left here espouses. Thanks for your courage!

  11. Supportive Ford says:

    Hi David,

    I’m not going to agree nor disagree with the argument you have presented in this article. Rather, I would like to commend you for expressing your opinions in a community that is likely to disapprove/disagree with what you have said.

    It was brave and important to do what you did, and I have no doubt that the discourse you have opened will be valuable to our community.

    Thank you.

  12. Gavriel Kleinwaks says:

    Hi,

    I agree with the above commenters that you were brave for putting your point of view out there. I also just want to echo what several commenters have said: Haverford, as a private institution, has a right to determine what type of speech and actions it wants banned in its community. The Haverford *student body* decided that specific types of harassment should be singled out for emphasis as violating the social honor code. That was a community decision to represent community values.

    Incidentally–Brigham Young University’s honor code requires students to be clean-shaven (with certain exemptions), although facial hair is a far less harmful occurrence than hate speech or other discrimination. It is perfectly fair for BYU to espouse clean-shavenness as (apparently) one of their community values. I can recognize that it is appropriate for a community to determine standards for itself, while at the same time knowing I would never choose to join BYU’s community, in part because their publicly stated values enable me to determine I would not be a good fit for them. So honor codes serve the purpose of public declarations of values as well.

    I do recognize that Haverford’s overwhelmingly liberal population might make different calls with regard to different forms of discriminatory speech. I do not think that is a problem with the Honor Code’s phrasing, although you are right to point out students must consider their biases carefully with regard to social matters. Jurors need to do their best to reach conclusions that are not colored by their political beliefs. But when I read abstracts, I am impressed by the strong moral sense and reasoning many jurors possess, and the respect they show each other even when disagreeing. So far, I do not have reason to conclude that the clause is a bad idea, since I would like a system of restorative justice to deal with social infractions. Discrimination and harassment are huge breaches of community trust.

    It is up to communities to determine who they want as members and representatives, and although some instances of violation might simply be upsetting misunderstandings, and the school certainly has a particular political bias, on the whole, I am glad to be a member of a community that publicly and explicitly holds this anti-discrimination value, and has an official system of restoration with regard to that value.

    • David Canada says:

      Gavriel,

      As I have said in my responses to Sergio and Anonymous Ford, Haverford’s obligations as an institution are unclear due to its consistent public commitment both to discourse and pluralistic ideals and to respect and community values. In contrast, Brigham Young University has explicitly stated that there are other ideals it holds above a commitment to freedom of speech. If Haverford publically and consistently articulated this same sentiment, then it could be treated in the same manner.
      I do not believe the Haverford community is wrong in declaring itself opposed to discrimination and other social ills in the Honor Code; rather, my problem lies in the current lack of procedure in determining violations of this portion of the Code. While I share your belief in the necessity of unbiased consideration in jurors and commend juror restraint in certain abstracts, I do not believe this offers sufficient protection of individuals from the threat of viewpoint discrimination. At the end of the day, jurors are still individuals and, no matter how rigorously they confront their bias, they cannot fully serve as objectively as clearly defined procedures. Not to detract from the specifics of the issue, but I believe the need for procedures can articulated through the example of sexual assault and rape allegations. If an individual were accused of sexual assault or rape on our campus, would we consider it legitimate if a group of individuals, without any type of procedural restrictions, single-handedly passed judgement on either side? I do not believe we would. Procedures exist to give all individuals involved due process apart from subjective determinations. I am not saying that we abandon community values or remove the possibility of punishment entirely; even the Supreme Court has free space to operate within the current bounds of the First Amendment, otherwise it would not be a judicial body. My recommendation of integration of Supreme Court precedent is not to remove self-determination, simply to protect from the dangers that sometimes accompany it. Furthermore, if, operating within the precedent established by the Court, the commission determined that a form or expression was unprotected, it could certainly be punished. I see this as one potential way to combat the potential for viewpoint discrimination in our current iteration of the Code. For me, it also serves as a check on Honor Council’s abilities within this community and, as we have seen with President Trump’s immigration ban, a check on a powerful office or body may sometimes be the only protection against injustice. I find myself uneasy at the lack of procedures and the potential violation of due process implicit in their lack of existence, which leads me to believe that their establishment is imperative to actualize our goals in the Social Code as effectively as possible. Finally, I recognize that my ideas are not infallible and would certainly welcome alternative suggestions which may better capitalize on the strengths of my proposal and/or rectify its weaknesses. Thank you for taking the time to respond to this article!

      Sincerely,
      David

  13. Anonymous Ford says:

    Discourse and violence don’t happen in two separate universes, my dude, my guy. It’s pretty obvious that you care more about some vague ideal of having the “right” to say literally whatever you want, no matter how bad or wrong, than protecting people from people who would kill them in an instant if they got the chance. This is what happens when people prioritize ideal “needs” over material needs.

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