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Law and Society
Notes 2D


Anatomy of a Murder
Woburn Case
School Searches
Search and Seizure
Bill of Rights
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Bill of Rights Comes Alive
Law and Society Policies
Notes 1
Notes 2A
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Notes 2C
Notes 2D
Notes 2E
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Bill of Rights Case 2D for Discussion

Speech and that is a Racist and Sexist

In recent years there's been a growing awareness of the problems of racial and sexual harassment. In 1987, the University of Michigan experienced a number of racist incidents. For example:

A student disc jockey on the campus radio station allowed racist jokes to be broadcast at a demonstration protesting racism, Ku Klux Klan uniform was displayed from the university dorm window fliers were distributed on campus declaring "open season" on African-Americans.

In response, the University implemented a policy prohibiting "harassment anyone through word or deed or any other behavior which discriminates on the basis of inappropriate criteria".

A graduate student at the University advocated certain theories involving "biologically based differences between different sexes and between different races" The student feared that his theories would be perceived as sexist or racist and that he would be punished under the university's policy. The student sued the university asking the court to hold the university's policy unconstitutional.


1) Should racist and sexist speech be constitutionally prohibited?

2) If it were constitutional to prohibit hate speech because it deeply offends the targets of that speech, should it also be constitutional to prohibit someone from asserting that there is no God because that statement would deeply offend religious people?

3) Would it be a good idea to hold the vote to see if a majority of people favor prohibiting racist and sexist speech?

4) If it could be shown that racist and sexist speech often leads to violent encounters, would this be a reason to prohibit the speech?

5) Should speech of any university campus be restricted any differently than speech is elsewhere? Should it make a difference if the diversity is public or private?