Stanford's Policy on "Hate" Speech

For the information of ATC readers, we reproduce here the Stanford University regulation drafted by law professor Thomas Grey, called “Fundamental Standard lnterpretation: Free Expression and Discriminatory Harassment.” The text is published in the Duke Law Journal, Vol. 1990, p.920, in the article “If He Hollers Let Him Go: Regulating Racist Speech” by Charles Lawrence.

Fundamental Standard Interpretation: Free Expression and Discriminatory Harassment

1. Stanford is committed to the principles of free inquiry and free expression. Students have the right to hold and vigorously defend and promote their opinions, thus entering them into the life of the University, there to flourish or whither according to their merits. Respect for this right requires that students tolerate even expression of opinions which they find abhorrent Intimidation of students by other students in their exercise of this right by violence or threat of violence, is therefore considered to be a violation of the Fundamental Standard.

2. Stanford is also committed to principles of equal opportunity and non-discrimination. Each student has the right to equal access to a Stanford education, without discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, handicap, religion, sexual orientation, or national and ethnic origin. Harassment of students on the basis of any of these characteristics tends to create a hostile environment that makes access to education for those subjected to it less equal. Such discriminatory harassment is therefore considered to be a violation of the Fundamental Standard.

3. This interpretation of the Fundamental Standard is intended to clarify the point at which protected free expression ends and prohibited discriminatory harassment begins. Prohibited harassment includes discriminatory intimidation by threats of violence, and also includes personal vilification of students on the basis of their sex, race, color, handicap, religion, sexual orientation, or national and ethnic origin.

4. Speech or other expression constitutes harassment by vilification if it:

a) is intended to insult or stigmatize an individual or a small number of individuals on the basis of their sex, race, color, handicap, religion, sexual orientation, or national and ethnic origin; and

b) is addressed directly to the individual or a small number of individuals whom it insults or stigmatizes; and

c) makes use of “fighting” words or non-verbal symbols. In the context of discriminatory harassment, “fighting” words or non-verbal symbols are words, pictures or symbols that, by virtue of their forms are commonly understood to convey or direct visceral hatred or contempt for human beings on the basis of their sex, race, color, handicap, religion, sexual orientation, or national and ethnic origin.

September-October 1991, ATC 34