UNC-Wilmington criminology professor Mike Adams argues that speech codes on college campuses don't do what some students think they do.
Adams gave a speech sponsored by the UNC College Republicans, the Carolina Liberty Foundation and the Carolina Review at the Student Union on Monday.
Adams spoke about his perception that campus speech codes — rules that prohibit hate speech — across the country are unconstitutional and dangerous. He said he thinks sometimes speech codes backfire and can reinforce negative stereotypes against the minorities they are trying to protect.
“If there is a negative stereotype that blacks have a chip on their shoulder, a negative stereotype that women are emotional; if there is an awful negative stereotype that someone who is gay has an emotional disturbance, guess what? Coming along and saying that (speech codes) are going to defend only them, because they’re too weak to make arguments on their own, reinforces the stereotype,” Adams said. “I think it is an ugly source of bigotry, these speech codes.”
Adams cited several cases in which these codes were found to violate the First Amendment, including one case at Georgia Tech where two conservative students objected to the subject matter and coarse language in a performance of the Vagina Monologues at their school. These students created a poster that expressed their opinions, and were found to be in violation of the school’s speech code. With the encouragement of Adams, the students sued the university and were in court for two years before a court ruled in their favor.