Hate speech draws focus of panel at Edinboro University

Four faculty look at topic

By Sheimeka Royster/BoroOnline.com

On March 3, Edinboro University's Office of Social Equity and Office of Student Affairs presented a panel about the rise of hate speech on campuses across the United States. The people who spoke on the panel were Dr. James Fisher, Dr. Rhonda Matthews, Dr. George Richards of the Political Science and Criminal Justice Department. In addition, Dr. Andrew Smith of the Department of Communication Studies participated.

The panel was moderated by Chief Diversity Officer Ronald A. Wilson. The panelists discussed several sensitive topics in relation to hate speech.

Dr. Andrew Smith had the opening presentation and he gave facts and statistics on how many hate groups exist throughout the United States. Dr. Smith stated there are currently 892 hate groups that exist, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Dr. Smith also defined a hate group as a group that has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics. Dr. Fisher gave his presentation from a political and law perspective. He stated that hate speech is in fact protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. However, although hate speech is protected by the Constitution, threatening or harming someone based on that person's race, ethnicity or religion is illegal.

Dr. Richards pointed out that hate speech is not permitted at private universities. Lastly, Dr. Matthews covered in her presentation how hate speech can harm other people.