It is a fundamental principle to the First Amendment that hate speech and offensive speech are constitutionally protected. But LSU wants to convince its students otherwise. On its website, LSU urges students to use a bias reporting form to report hate speech that makes them feel marginalized, stereotyped, or harmed. But as SLF explains in a letter to the University, bias reporting forms like this one are unconstitutional.
The reason hate speech and offensive speech are protected by the First Amendment is that they are difficult to define. What offends one person might not offend another. Students can’t be expected to guess whether their words will offend each other, especially in today’s cancel culture.
SLF writes in its letter that bias reporting systems are especially dangerous because they scare students into silence. If a conservative student organization at LSU wants to host a debate on a controversial topic, other students could shut it down by reporting the organization for bias. And because LSU lacks clear policies explaining that students cannot be punished for engaging in protected speech, conservative student groups will opt for silence instead of risking an investigation and even discipline by campus authorities.