Digital History at Ursinus

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

Dublin Core


"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 position of the forum 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.




Chris Bowers


The Grizzly


Ursinus College








opinion article

Text Item Type Metadata


Last Thursday at 12:30 p.m. in Wismer parents' lounge there was a campus forum on the topic of free speech which seemed, in my opinion, to reach the following conclusions from faculty and students alike:

I. The difference between ' hate speech' and ' intelligently expression your opinion ' can not be determined.

2. If a difference can not be determined, then a difference does not exist. Therefore, there is no difference
between ' hate speech' and 'intelligently expressing your opinion.'

3. Therefore, if any action is to be taken to restrict ' hate speech' then the same action must be taken against 'intelligently expressing your opinion' since they are the
same thing.

4. Therefore, no action should be taken against 'hate speech' for 'intelligently expressing your opinion' is 'one of the principles which our country was founded on' .

Frankly, I found this absurd. How could an intelligent group of faculty and students assert that 'hate speech' does not exist? How could an intelligent group of faculty and students assert that the difference between one form of communication and another form of communication can not be determined? If the difference
between various forms of communication
can not be determined, at least in a working sense, then communication would be impossible.
How could I understand what you were saying if I could not tell it apart from anything else you were saying? What?

The forum then, in my opinion, went on to another near- consensus conclusion that even if 'hate speech'
(what?) did exist then gay bashing (what?), racial slurs (what?) or overtly sexist remarks (what?) should be allowed because they do not infringe upon the first amendment rights of those they slander. I found this equally absurd. The only way rights can be infringed is not
merely through segregation, physical violence and the denial of certain jobs, even though those forms of discrimination continue to exist. Psychological violence and discrimination in the form of language or images exists and can be shown to exist. Further, they can be shown to be more damaging than other forms of discrimination. I do not have the space to justify these statements, but it can be shown that ' hate
speech ' falls into the category of psychological violence and discrimination and needs to be restricted if equality is to be achieved.

I believe that it is absurd to say that a working defintion of ' hate speech' can not be reached and that the damaging and discriminatory effects of ' hate speech' can not be determined. While I have not proven either of these assertions, I did not have enough space to do so. I will attempt to do so in future letters. Until then, let us try to keep the campus forum on this manner alive, for more discussion is needed and while some of us believe that people do not have the right to express certain phrases, all of us believe that everyone has the right to debate
whether or not you should be allowed to express certain phrases.

-Chris Bowers
Class of 1996

Original Format

newspaper article





Chris Bowers, “"Intelligently Expressing Your Opinion?" October 10th, 1995.,” Digital History at Ursinus, accessed September 21, 2020,