Officials of several San Antonio colleges: Hate speech is not free speech

There are 23 institutions in the Higher Education Council of San Antonio (Texas), and last month 13 officials in that system, including 11  college presidents as well as the Mayor of San Antonio, signed a bizarre statement that appears on the HECSA website. Here it is in its entirety:

Hate Speech Is Not Free Speech

American colleges and universities have always embraced diverse points of view, leading to a multitude of new discoveries and cultural understanding. Higher education is a phenomenal place for minds to be challenged, to inquire, explore, discover and question the status quo.

But from time to time, American colleges and universities are subject to witness hate speech or activity that is disguised as free speech. Such has been the case in recent weeks at several colleges and universities in San Antonio and throughout Texas.

As members of the Higher Education Council of San Antonio (HECSA), we – the presidents of colleges and universities throughout this community and supporters – feel that it is important for us to speak out and make a distinction between diversity of thought and disingenuous misrepresentation of free speech. We further attest that hate speech has no place at our colleges and universities. Inappropriate messages, banners and flyers that are meant to provoke, spread hate, or create animosity and hostility, are not welcome or accepted.

Teaching, research, and critical thinking are the founding pillars of higher education. Each and every day, we witness incredible learning opportunities for our students, faculty, staff and community members.

San Antonio’s colleges and universities are stronger and more diverse than ever before. During the upcoming tricentennial, there are many events, activities and symposiums being planned at our colleges to honor the city’s multicultural heritage, as well as current and future residents. San Antonio colleges and universities have played an enormous part in the city’s history. We are proud to have been a part of this great accomplishment and will further ensure that it continues to be our focus in the next 300 years.

Please join us in celebrating the power of higher education in the lives of San Antonio residents!

This is the usual “we love free speech, but. . . ” statement, and has a lot of problems. First, it doesn’t define “hate speech”.  Is speech that hates on Nazis, Trump, or Israel “hate speech”? After all, that kind of speech is indeed meant to “provoke, spread hate, and create animosity and hostility”!

Instead, it just says that hate speech is “disingenuous misrepresentation of free speech” rather than “diversity of thought.” But what is the difference? Is the “diversity of thought” that questions affirmative action, unlimited immigration, or the DACA program considered “hate speech”?

Finally, the statement, signed by the mayor of a big U.S. city, fails to recognize that “hate speech” IS free speech, for U.S. courts have recognized this as the going interpretation of the First Amendment.  What the signatories are saying—and some of the HECSA colleges are public, and so must abide by the Constitution—is this: “Screw the Constitution. We’re gonna prohibit speech that is legal but that we don’t like.”

Shame on these officials, and shame on the mayor, for signing such a nebulous and Constitution-flouting document.


  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 14, 2018 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    It is just a continuation of the screw the constitution practice. We do not give a damn what the constitution really says particularly that first amendment as well as the second. The FFRF spends most of it’s working day on attempting to uphold other parts of the first amendment and for the most part, no body cares. I do not hear liberals marching in the streets against the far right concerning the incursions of religion so why not go ahead and kill the whole thing including speech. Let’s just help Trump and is followers in dumping the whole thing.

    There is a new movie out called the Post, mostly about the first amendment, concerning speech. I would bet that many people who even see the moving do not get it. I guarantee Trump does not get it and neither do these schools.

  2. Posted January 14, 2018 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Start with a fragrantly perfumed foundation paragraph, then two paragraphs carrying your controversial message which you know could never stand up well by itself, then coat the whole thing with three more sweet-sounding and uncontroversial paragraphs, sort of like dipping unsavory food in thick batter and deep-frying it to disguise the taste.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted January 14, 2018 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I noticed that.

      “Burble… burble… burble …

      Inappropriate messages, banners and flyers that are meant to provoke, spread hate, or create animosity and hostility, are not welcome or accepted…

      …burble …burble… wank”

      ‘Inappropriate’, of course, is another of those barf-inducing weasel words that *doesn’t* mean what it says. They use it to mean ‘offensive’ (to who? To whoever’s using it that way).

      Wearing a top hat and tails on the beach would be ‘inappropriate’, in the proper meaning of the word. Saying “fuck all you closet censors” at a meeting of HECSA would, in my view, be absolutely appropriate – whether it was offensive or not is quite irrelevant to its appropriateness.


  3. rickflick
    Posted January 14, 2018 at 1:37 pm | Permalink


  4. Posted January 14, 2018 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    What an appallingly written statement! (The San Antonio one, not PCC-E’s post, for avoidance of doubt!)

    “Inappropriate messages, banners and flyers that are meant to provoke, spread hate, or create animosity and hostility, are not welcome or accepted.”

    OK, so messages that are meant to provoke are not welcome or accepted. Provoke what? As worded, that means one may not provoke *anything*!

    Provoke: “stimulate or give rise to (a reaction or emotion, typically a strong or unwelcome one) in someone.”

    So one may not say *anything* that might gives rise to *any* strong reaction or emotion!

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 14, 2018 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I realize it’s Texas and all, but for college presidents, they do abuse the Queen’s English.

      • XCellKen
        Posted January 14, 2018 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

        We Texas be so stupid and stuff

        • XCellKen
          Posted January 14, 2018 at 7:29 pm | Permalink


      • XCellKen
        Posted January 14, 2018 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

        And when Regressive Leftists go all regressive in places like, I dunno, Washington State, you also blame the entire State for that?

        Those people in Evergreen sure abuse the Queen’s English, amirite ?

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted January 14, 2018 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

          Oh, there are stupid people everywhere, and certainly in all 50 states. But Texas has a knack for producing a particular breed of stupidity; I don’t think any other state, for example, could’ve given the nation a Blake Farenthold or a Louie Gohmert or a Rick Perry. Hell, I thought all red-blooded Texans took a certain perverse pride in that.

          • BJ
            Posted January 14, 2018 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

            Shifting from hilarious to frightening with such deft aplomb is usually reserved for great works of literature, not articles in local papers.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted January 15, 2018 at 9:20 am | Permalink

              Molly Ivins was a national treasure; I miss her terribly in this, the Age of Trump.

  5. DrBrydon
    Posted January 14, 2018 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    And that’s why San Antonio is not called the Athens of America.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 14, 2018 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

      Obvs, that would be Lubbock.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted January 14, 2018 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

        What, the place of which the Dixie Chicks sang “Lubbock or leave it” –

        Throwing stones from the top of your rock
        Thinking no one can see
        The secrets you hide behind
        Your southern hospitality
        On the strip the kids get lit
        So they can have a real good time
        Come Sunday they can just take their pick
        From the crucifix skyline


        • Ken Kukec
          Posted January 14, 2018 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

          I accept The Chicks as authoritative on the topic.

    • XCellKen
      Posted January 14, 2018 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

      San Antonio, the most Hispanic major city in America. Are you implying that Hispanics are stupid? Or only the White people in San Antonio

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 14, 2018 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

        I read DrBrydon to be suggesting simply that ol’ San Antone might be packin’ a bit light in the Euripides, Thucydides, and Socrates department.

  6. alexandra Moffat
    Posted January 14, 2018 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Hear Hear!!

  7. Jenny Haniver
    Posted January 14, 2018 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    This is a laughable document with respect to style and content. What makes it even more ridiculous is that the contradictions and flaws in the statement pointed out by PCC(E)and in the comments section are emblematized in an incident which occurred at the University of San Antonio last October (just a month before this diktat was issued), when a bisexual philosophy student criticized Islam and was drummed or driven not just out of his department but out of the school I quote the beginning of the article:

    “A bisexual male student at the University of Texas–San Antonio said during an informal conversation outside class that he was uncomfortable with Islam because people still receive the death penalty for being gay in 10 Muslim-majority countries.
    “For expressing this thought, the student—Alfred MacDonald, who no longer attends the school—was instructed to meet with the chair of the philosophy department, Eve Browning. Prof. Browning told MacDonald in no uncertain terms that he had committed the crime of “offending” someone, and she warned him that his habit of saying what he thinks could bring down the entire program. She threatened to call the Behavior Intervention Team and refer MacDonald to counseling.” The student taped the conversation. Excerpts in the transcript are given the article. Here is the entire transcript

    If this incident happened as described, there is no conceivable reason why this student should have been taken to task for anything. And then, what if a Muslim student had criticized bisexuals and homosexuals, and transgenders? Would that student face a similar fate — investigation by the thought police?

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted January 14, 2018 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      This is a perfect example of the whole problem and it ought to alarm everyone. If free speech of an extreme and hateful kind is to be blocked, then that can (and here does) open the door to sanctions against even mildly ‘pointed’ speech.

      • Craw
        Posted January 14, 2018 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

        Which is the goal.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted January 14, 2018 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

        I can’t but wonder whether this incident was a factor in the consortium issuing the “hate speech is not free speech” statement when they did? The timing is interesting. The level of paranoia exhibited by Eve Browning is astounding to me — for expressing those thoughts he could “bring down the whole department.”

        • BJ
          Posted January 14, 2018 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

          If you know anything about history, you know the Roman Empire ended when Romulus made an offhand remark to one of his guards about “those uncouth barbarians.”

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted January 14, 2018 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

        Relax, the Thought Police are on the case…


  8. nicky
    Posted January 14, 2018 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    As known, I’m much less tolerant of actual hate speech than most here, when I say hate speech, I’m thinking of ‘Radio Mille Collines’ and Goebbels.
    However, the “San Antonio statement” is so vague it could cover anything. It is completely unconscionable.

    • Paul S
      Posted January 14, 2018 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      At what point would you ban their speech? Are you going to wait to hear what they say before you make the determination or are you simply going to prevent them from from speaking because they’ve previously said something offensive.
      Maybe you’d like to jail them along with anyone who dared to listen.

      • nicky
        Posted January 14, 2018 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

        Yes, what constitutes hate speech obviously is the problem. Of course you should not prevent them from speaking, no more than you arrest a thief before he has stolen.
        I think that most would agree that incitement to violence and murder is crossing the line.
        How direct must these inducements be? Opinions vary there.
        I think that describing a population as cockroaches (and you know what we do with cockroaches), as RMC did, crosses the line, as does “Death to Those Who Mock the Prophet”.

  9. Joshua Schwartz
    Posted January 14, 2018 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    I am a faculty member at one of these institutions, and our president signed this document. I’ve never contacted the upper administration before regarding anything. Frankly, as much as I would like to say something, I’m actually a little afraid to.

    • Stephen Barnard
      Posted January 14, 2018 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

      You should be afraid. The slightest deviation from the party line might be construed as hate speech. (See Evergreen.)

      • Simon
        Posted January 14, 2018 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

        Harvey Weinstein was rather critcal of his colleagues for cowering under their desks rather than coming out against the administration and the mob. It is easy to stand on the sidelines and ask others to be brave, but the cold fact is that universities will fall to the Marxists unless more faculty do stick their necks out.

        • XCellKen
          Posted January 14, 2018 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

          I think you meant Bret ?

          • Simon
            Posted January 15, 2018 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

            Yes, of course. Thanks for the correction.

    • Simon
      Posted January 14, 2018 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps the majority at your institution feel the same way but are all burying their heads in the sand hoping it will all blow over. The only way to combat this rot is for faculty to stand together or they will otherwise find the environment turning more and more hostile and dissenters picked off one by one.TBH, university faculty are proving too weak and self-interested to stand up for their principles and that is why the Critical Theory terrorists are winning.

  10. BJ
    Posted January 14, 2018 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    I really don’t know what to say anymore. Rather than rehashing all the reasons why this statement is abominably stupid — as we have so often had to do lately — I will simply note that people should remember to bring this up next time anyone says that the suppression of speech on college campuses isn’t a significant and rapidly mounting problem.

  11. Kiwi Dave
    Posted January 15, 2018 at 4:06 am | Permalink

    It would be interesting to test the claim that higher education is a phenomenal place to question the status quo.

    I suggest a 101 day campaign challenging/supporting one of the pieties of our age, e.g, a series of posters or tweets stating:

    Day 1: 0% of ethnic groups* X and Y are racist**.
    Day 2: 1% of ethnic groups X and Y are racist.
    Day 3: 2% of… etc.

    *Or gender X.

    **Or some other negative term – criminal, sexist, superstitious…

    How far could you get before someone decided that this was inappropriate hate speech?

  12. Posted January 15, 2018 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    I wish people who propose anti-“hate speech” rules would provide more specific guidance.

  13. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted January 15, 2018 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Well, you could then go and ban despair speech (existentialist philsophy) or doubt speech (atheism) or any number of things.

    I AM in favor of banning harassment speech, and I think you can make a case that both Ann Coulter and Milo Y have crossed that line.

  14. phoffman56
    Posted January 15, 2018 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    Undoubtedly not doable, but I often think that no really upper echelon administrator in any ‘institution of higher learning’ should be a person who has never been a serious researcher in something close to a ‘hard’ science. Thinking about the recent discussion of the sociologist who specializes in barbecues and something else often confused with penis size, maybe most parts of most social sciences are just too ‘soft’ for practitioners therein to know much about truth and how to attempt to get it. Exceptions occur such as Stephen Pinker, who is formally in a psychology department (though I often wonder whether many PR producers for TV commercials know far more psychology than a majority of psych profs do). Compared to most of the critical theorists/postmodernists, many theologians might even be more likely to provide better guidance to an institution of higher learning, dog help us! But who gets to decide who’s to be the new university president/provost/chancellor? Not usually a group of individuals that inspires much confidence.

  15. Chris Branch
    Posted January 15, 2018 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    As an alumni of one of the universities (Trinity), I emailed the president with my concerns. The mayor is also a Trinity grad, but I was there before his time and don’t know him.

    • Chris Branch
      Posted January 15, 2018 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

      Oops, alumnus. 🙄

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