Why university presidents find it hard to punish advocating genocide − college free speech codes are both more and less protective than the First Amendment | The Conversation

If a student were to walk off the Harvard campus and onto a street in the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and argue for the genocide of Jews, the U.S. Constitution would bar prosecuting her for hate speech.

If the same student left her perch on the sidewalk and returned to the Harvard campus to continue the rant, the student could be silenced by campus police and either suspended or expelled from the university under the school’s code of conduct.

The same is true for many other campuses across the nation, including the University of Pennsylvania and MIT. Private colleges and universities have speech codes that allow them to punish certain speech. But in their Dec. 6, 2023, testimony before Congress about antisemitism on their campuses, Presidents Elizabeth Magill of UPenn, Sally Kornbluth of MIT and Claudine Gay of Harvard failed to clearly state that, when pressed by U. S. Rep. Elise Stefanik to explain what would happen if someone…Read More


Lynn Greenky is a Professor Emeritus at Syracuse University, where she taught a beloved undergraduate course about the First Amendment for 10 years. She continues to write and speak about the First Amendment and is the author of  When Freedom Speaks.

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