By Runa Lemminn
The line between free speech and hate speech is very thin, and not everyone has the same rights. These facts were just some of what was discussed at the Free Speech on Campus event, held on Nov. 8 at CSU, Bakersfield.
Throughout the evening, panelists dispelled some commonly held beliefs about what free speech is, and who is protected by the first amendment.
Panelists were all professors at CSUB, and included Drs. Jeanine Kraybill, Ivy Cargile, and Michael Burroughs.
The Dezember room was filled to capacity, with over 150 people in attendance. The audience had a large student base, but faculty, administration, and members of the general public were also in attendance.
Although some students went for the extra credit their professors had offered, some were very interested in the topic and had questions for the panel during the last half of the discussion.
Claudia Herrera, a junior psychology major, said she was curious to hear from the panel.
“I’m here for extra credit for my class, but also just to see what they have to say,” said Herrera.
Kraybill was the first to speak, and began by saying not everyone has the same rights. For example, speech rights can depend on being employed by the government.
“Free speech only restrains the government. The private sector is a completely different beast when it comes to freedom of speech and the protection that you have in the public forum,” said Kraybill.
While free speech and hate speech are protected by the First Amendment, fighting words are not.
“Fighting words, which are lewd, obscene, profane, slanderous, and insulting, are, in fact, not protected,” said Cargile.
None of the professors on the panel advocated censorship of speech, despite how difficult it might be to hear.
Cargile said college students need to be prepared to go out into the real world, where there will be no choice about encountering many different opinions.
“Part of the college experience is in fact to be challenged, it is in fact to feel uncomfortable about what we’ve been taught and about what we believe,” said Cargile.
The second half of the event was opened up to comments and questions from the audience. One person said they felt it was important to ask: “what our purpose is,” when inviting a speaker to campus.
Another audience member mentioned the intimidation factor of having too much security seen at an event, which in turn might discourage an open dialog at the event.
All panelists said they wanted the discussions about free speech on campus to continue.
“We don’t want this to be an isolated conversation,” said Burroughs.