Op-ed correctly distinguished significance between free speech, hate speech

letter to the editor
Willow Yang/File

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I fully agree with Mukund Rathi’s op-ed in your Oct. 6 issue. The op-eds that have expressed this point of view are spot-on. Older and more privileged people such as Erwin Chemerinsky are lost in the past and just don’t get it. There’s a huge difference between advocating for free speech rights of oppressed/ disadvantaged people when the rich and powerful are suppressing such rights and advocating for hate speech that attacks oppressed/disadvantaged people and is funded by the rich and powerful. Unfortunately, people such as Chemerinsky and Chancellor Carol Christ fail to think critically about this issue, erroneously and illegitimately conflating these polar opposite free speech issues to arrive at unsupportable conclusions.

Rathi also correctly points out that the UC Berkeley campus just wasted $800,000 on security for a speaker who no one wanted to hear. The First Amendment does not require this, and it should not have been done. A much better procedure would be to provide the standard amount of security for all speakers and have the speakers or sponsoring groups pay for any additional security needed. If unwanted speakers insist on forcing themselves on our community and on the UC Berkeley campus, they must foot the bill for their own security.

Finally, no speaker should be allowed on campus if classes or other normal school activities have to be closed because of that speaker’s presence. We pay a lot of property taxes so that students can be educated, not so that classes and school activities can be disrupted by right-wing speakers or racist fanatics. If someone’s ideas or personality is so controversial on campus or in our community that their presence on campus would require closing of classes, they simply should not be allowed on campus. What happened during “Free Speech Week” was a perfect example of taking free speech too far.

So again, kudos to Mr. Rathi for this op-ed and to all the other like-minded people who have had their views published in The Daily Californian. I would love to see a debate on campus regarding these issues.

Jeff Hoffman is a Berkeley resident.