Recently, Stanford University has been the subject of controversy involving a conversation around freedom of speech.
A student posted a Snapchat of another student reading Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” autobiography while making an exaggerated thoughtful expression. A complaint was filed by an unknown student organization.
The university did not take disciplinary action and instead went for a variety of options to address the problem, including mediation.
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression sent a letter to the university, explaining that while those actions are not disciplinary, they still hamper freedom of speech and expression.
Students have the right to feel safe and supported on a campus where they pay to attend.
With that being said, freedom of speech and expression is one of our many rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution, and even if we are uncomfortable with others’ expressions, they still have the right to do so.
It may not be in good taste to make cute poses while reading a Hitler autobiography, but if that is their prerogative, we have no right to say that they should not do it at all.
In general, “Mein Kampf” is a book that is assigned in schools, including Stanford, and may be of interest to people as it can be important to learn about the history of infamous people and events.
Free speech should also have its boundaries. This situation would be different if it were a student holding “Mein Kampf” and they were threating harm to others whose cultures were directly affected by the Holocaust.
That type of situation is like one that occurred at our very own VSU in 2020.
Controversy in our community arose during the summer of 2020 when a photo leaked of a student wearing blackface. This happened to be during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd.
As of now, we never learned how VSU addressed the situation or what happened to the student. VSU released a statement through email that said the situation was being handled.
This is an example of free speech going too far as the only intention of the photo was to make a mockery of a marginalized group of people who were dealing with a very intense period of political, racial and cultural turmoil in our country.
Free speech is at the foundation of our democracy, and the expression of that right can be shown in a variety of ways. It is a very important right to have, as many countries are not as lucky to be able to speak as freely as we are.
However, when free speech is turned into hate speech, we should take the necessary steps to correct inappropriate behavior.
This editorial reflects the general opinion of the Spectator editorial staff.