Daily Egyptian

In the wake of Charlottesville, SIU officials say they have hate speech, violence contingency plans

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump converse with SIU freshman MiKala Barrett on Monday outside Faner Hall following the May 2 protest. One of the issues addressed in the protest was racism at SIU, much of which has concerned the controversial presidential candidate. — May 2, 2016, Carbondale, Ill.

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump converse with SIU freshman MiKala Barrett on Monday outside Faner Hall following the May 2 protest. One of the issues addressed in the protest was racism at SIU, much of which has concerned the controversial presidential candidate. — May 2, 2016, Carbondale, Ill.

By Gabby Pettyjohn

The college town of Charlottesville, Virginia became the scene of violence and chaos on Aug. 12 when a rally held by white supremacists converged on counter-protesters. This opened a national dialogue about how college campuses can — or should — handle clashes between extremists and those who oppose them.

In the last two years, SIU has seen a few protests, marches and walkouts — students held a demonstration last week to oppose cutting the Africana Studies department, a rally and a walk-out were staged following the election of President Donald Trump and, most famously, hundreds of students congregated on campus on May 2, 2016 to protest a slate of issues that included race, sexism and student debt.

None of the recent on-campus protests have turned violent, and certainly none have reached the caliber of events in Charlottesville, but it raises the question — what would university administration do if SIU was the site of an out-of-control protest?

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“There is a fine line between freedom of speech and hate speech,” said Lori Stettler, the vice chancellor of student affairs. “Once that line is crossed, there is zero tolerance.”

Stettler said the university allows peaceful protests so students and community members can exercise their right to freedom of speech, but the university has to watch all demonstrations closely to make sure protesters are not using that freedom to preach hate and cause violence.

Once the line into hate speech is crossed, Stettler said the university would bring additional campus police to the area and request aid from city and state police to get the situation under control as quickly as possible.

In the immediate moment, students in danger or near the area on campus in which the protest was being held would be warned to stay away.

Students would also be encouraged to use university psychologists and counselors following an incident of hate-speech or violent outbursts, Stettler said. Anyone that took part in a hateful demonstration would be subject to disciplinary action, which she said would be determined by university officials.

Jennifer Jones-Hall, the dean of students, said the best thing students could do in response to a protest that they do not agree with is to avoid it.

“It’s hard to walk away, but we do ask students to walk away,” she said.

Last year, the university started the discussion series Saluki Speaks, which is intended to provide students with the opportunity to learn about issues of diversity and intersectionality, Stettler said.

“Everyone should be educated on the difference between free speech and hate speech,” Stettler said. “Everybody has a right to their own opinion, and it is our responsibility to have open dialogue and conversation.”

If students do wish to organize a peaceful protest on campus, university officials advise they read the policies and procedures in the document “Demonstrations: Regulations and Procedures,” which is available on the dean of students webpage. They are also encouraged to schedule a meeting with Jones-Hall to discuss the protest and and their rights and responsibilities as demonstrators.

Staff writer Gabby Pettyjohn can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @gpettyjohn98.

To stay up to date with all your SIU news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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4 Comments

4 Responses to “In the wake of Charlottesville, SIU officials say they have hate speech, violence contingency plans”

  1. Dr. Necessitor on September 13th, 2017 11:43 am

    Ms. Stettler should take a civics course. Hate speech is protected by the first amendment and it applies to public universities. Any SIU administrator who participates in disciplining a student for engaging in protected speech, hateful or not, would be subject to personal liability for violating their first amendment rights.

  2. RonF on September 14th, 2017 12:12 pm

    “’There is a fine line between freedom of speech and hate speech,’ said Lori Stettler, the vice chancellor of student affairs.”

    As a public university SIU’s policies are governed by the law, especially with regards to applying the First Amendment. Nowhere in law is “hate speech” defined at all, never mind as a category of speech that does not have First Amendment protection. In 1978 the Supreme Court ruled that the American Nazi Party could march through Skokie wearing Nazi uniforms, waving Nazi flags and shouting Nazi slogans. Nothing in the law has changed since then.

    “’Once that line is crossed, there is zero tolerance.’”

    Under the law there is no such line. And if there was, who would get to define it? You? Me? Hillary Clinton? Pres. Trump? That’s why there is no such line.

    “Stettler said the university allows peaceful protests so students and community members can exercise their right to freedom of speech, but the university has to watch all demonstrations closely to make sure protesters are not using that freedom to preach hate and cause violence.”

    Speech does not cause violence. While there is such a thing as incitement under the law, it is VERY narrowly defined. If you bother to do some research you will find that demonstrations supporting Trump and shouting “Make American Great” or “Build the Wall” or opposing same-sex marriage or abortion doesn’t come close to qualifying. What causes violence when intolerant and immature people hear the expression of viewpoints different than theirs and believe that their race, ethnicity or beliefs privilege them to attempt to stop the expression. This is the fault of the listener and violent actor, not the speaker. If you follow the trials of people arrested for committing violent acts at demonstrations and presentations you will find that the courts agree.

    “Once the line into hate speech is crossed, Stettler said the university would bring additional campus police to the area and request aid from city and state police to get the situation under control as quickly as possible.”

    From the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed ….”

    On that basis, will the University use the campus, city and State police to get the situation under control by detaining and arresting the violent actors so as to secure speakers’ or demonstrators’ civil rights? Or will they give official sanction to the violation of their civil rights by stopping the speech or demonstration?

    Vice Chancellor Stetler appears to have a complete misunderstanding of her obligations to uphold student’s civil rights. Governor Rauner should fire her immediately.

  3. JG on September 15th, 2017 12:01 am

    Evidently the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs is the one who needs to be “educated.” Hate speech is absolutely covered by “Free Speech,” and is protected by the First Amendment. Read a book.

  4. John on September 20th, 2017 7:58 am

    “There is a fine line between freedom of speech and hate speech,” said Lori Stettler, the vice chancellor of student affairs. “Once that line is crossed, there is zero tolerance.”

    Lori Stettler is a Constitutional ignoramus, there is no line, fine or otherwise, between freedom of of speech and hate speech”. First Amendment jurisprudence recognizes no such distinction. Speech that others find hateful and deeply offensive is completely protected:

    “Snyder v. Phelps, 562 U.S. 443 (2011), is a landmark United States Supreme Court case where the Supreme Court ruled that speech on a matter of public concern, on a public street, cannot be the basis of liability for a tort of emotional distress, even in the circumstances that the speech is viewed or interpreted as “offensive” or “outrageous”.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snyder_v._Phelps

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