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Chancellor’s Message on Hate Speech

May 30, 2006

Dear Colleagues:

This is the third in a trilogy of messages sent to the campus community this month reiterating our core values of respect, appreciation and empathy, our refusal to tolerate illegal behavior, and our Constitutional obligation to respect and uphold First Amendment rights.

Today, I would like to address behavior that adheres to the strict definition of the law, but falls distinctly outside the bounds of civility. In a society of laws, we all must abide by a written code that draws the line between legal and illegal activities. The law sets a minimum standard of behavior. But there is a zone between illegal behavior and desirable behavior. In this zone we find disrespectful, deliberately offensive, but not specifically illegal acts. In the case of hate speech, this behavior is protected by the Constitution.

Hate speech is difficult to define precisely. It is largely defined by the individual hearing it: what some or many may find hateful or offensive, others may not. Hate speech tends to be directed at individuals or groups. The speaker chooses words specifically to offend and inflame. We can all think of examples of this behavior: words that are used to provoke outrage.

This winter and spring there have been incidents testing the bounds of the First Amendment at many campuses across the country, including ours. The controversies have revolved around a variety of issues, often not related to campus life per se, but rather reflecting larger international frictions.

Make no mistake: I find hate speech abhorrent. It is inconsistent with advancing understanding or dialogue. It is also inconsistent with the great tradition of free speech at the University of California. I ask you to join me in renouncing hate speech as a form of expression, and to join with our larger university community in fostering open and candid dialogue.

I invite you to visit the Web page of Student Affairs Vice Chancellor Manuel Gomez (http://www.vcsa.uci.edu), which includes important information related to the practice of free speech and events that UCI is sponsoring to encourage constructive dialogue on difficult issues currently being addressed on campuses across the country.

And, as always, I invite you to review our values, which can be found at http://www.chancellor.uci.edu/values.shtml. By upholding these values, we can ensure a healthy exchange of ideas in a civil, non-threatening environment.

I ask that you join me in ensuring that we remain a dynamic, respectful campus community that upholds these core values and where free speech, individual rights and safety are honored and respected.

Fiat Lux
Michael V. Drake, M.D.
Chancellor

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