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Digital History at Ursinus

Conflict and Conversation: 1995

"A Rainbow is Better." October 3rd, 1995

In this opinion article, Karen O'Connor responds to homophobia and hate speech perpetuated by a newscast on the college radio station, WVOU. The article condemns the hate speech and advocates for acceptance and equality.

"Intelligently Expressing Your Opinion?" October 10th, 1995.

Chris Bowers responds to a forum held in the Wismer Parent's Lounge about distinctions between "free speech" and "hate speech." Bowers reports that the forum concluded that hate speech cannot be easily distinguished from expressing one's opinion and thus should not be banned or punished. Bowers counters the forum's position by stating that hate speech demeans people's identities, promotes violence, and acts as a form of discrimination. Bowers encourages additional debate on the topic, urging the campus to keep the forum alive.

"A Parent's View." November 7th, 1995.

Barbara Lehrman commends students for debating the nature of free speech.

"Enough is Enough!" November 7th, 1995.

Caroline Kurtz expresses frustration at the debate about sexuality and GALA.

Forum: Hate Speech vs. Free Speech

In this gallery, you will find articles that discuss the nature of words and opinions. A theme interwoven throughout the 1995 debates about sexuality, GALA, and homophobia was the question of free speech. Students asked: what is the distinction between expressing one's opinion and creating speech that disrespects another's identity? When is a line drawn between "free speech" and hate speech?

Several of the arguments used to condemn GALA stated that the group restricted the freedom of expression of other members of the Ursinus community. Dr. Nagy, for example, wrote in his article "Homosexuality: Not a Good Alternative" that GALA “suppressed” the opinions of their opponents through "peer pressure" and "intimidation" [6]. Dr. Nagy’s sentiment was echoed by several other opponents of GALA who wrote that the condemnation of homophobic remarks interferes with the “right” to express personal and religious points of view.

Although it occurred in 1995, the debate about free speech is alarmingly relevant to today. As protest and activism ignites in our current polarized political climate, many critics of protests state that their voices are attacked by cries for justice. Indeed, these claims do not seem very far removed from assertions by authors in the 1995 Grizzly that the efforts of GALA to eradicate homophobia “silenced” their opinions [7]. As hate speech continues to disparage marginalized communities and threaten civil rights, Chris Bower’s call to reject and punish hate speech champions activism just as necessary today as it was in 1995, as hate speech threatens civil rights.

Bibliography 

Alison Heely, "Close-mindedness is the Real Problem," October 3, 1995, Digital History at Ursinusaccessed December 9, 2016, http://omeka.ursinus.edu/items/show/196

Doug Nagy, "Homosexuality: Not a Good Alternative," October 10, 1995. Digital History at Ursinus, accessed December 9, 2016, http://omeka.ursinus.edu/items/show/196

Joseph H. Niesen, "Heterosexism: Redefining Homophobia for the 1990s," 1990. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Psychotherapy, 1.3, 24.