Print Issue Volume 101 - Issue 5

Four Ironies of Campus Climate

The controversy over campus climate contains several components, including safe spaces, ethnic studies departments and faculty, trigger warnings, and crackdowns on hate speech and micro-aggressions.

Of all these, the last three, which concern speech, have been the most hotly contested. Debates over hate speech and campus conduct codes began in the early 1990s with minority students pressing for controls and defenders of free speech on the other side. Even though the latter group has prevailed in most of the court challenges, campuses continue to search for means to rein in language that demoralizes and distracts minorities, making it more difficult for them to get an education.

The controversy shows few signs of abating or even making much progress. This Article shows why. Highlighting four ironies of hate speech, it explains why both sides of the controversy encounter difficulties in speaking in terms, and by means of frameworks, that the other side will understand or respect.

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