“Protecting Freedom of Expression on the Campus”
In Derek Bok’s article, “Protecting Freedom of Expression on the Campus”, Bok writes about what has been a long-lasting controversial issue in the United States: freedom of speech and expression. The author claims that though the acts are “insensitive and unwise,” they are permitted, and lawfully so. Acts of expression are committed on a day-to-day basis and in a broad aspect of environments; some are offensive while others are not. Who decides what is offensive and what is appropriate? This is one of the dilemmas that the Supreme Court has had to consider, since what might offend one person might in turn be acceptable to another. The act of hanging a confederate flag at Harvard was one such controversy. Bok does not support the act, but rather supports the fact that it is a legal act. He gives credit to both sides of the argument. He claims that freedom of expression is important and every citizen of United States has that right. However he adds, “It is important to distinguish between the appropriateness of such communications and their status under the First Amendment” (66). Bok believes that it is a hard decision to decide what should and should not be censored. He states that “one reason why the power of censorship is so dangerous is that it is extremely difficult to decide when a particular communication is offensive enough to warrant exclusion or to weigh the degree of offensiveness against the potential value of the communication” (67). Working through positive channels, like having forums and welcoming open dialog amongst divergent groups may have a longer lasting effect. While disagreements may persist, Bok hopes that opposing groups could have at least a basic respect for the other. If people are going to express themselves then they should be aware of the possible effects it is going to have on the people around them. Free speech may be protected by the First Amendment but it does not...
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