“Speech Codes” On The campus And Problems of Free Speech A Response to
Nat Hentoff
We have all heard them, slurs and jokes at the expense of minority races. Race has been a hot
subject for centuries. Throughout our lives we have learned of slavery of African Americans and
slaughter of the Jewish people in Europe. Once again the subject on race has been sparked. This time it
is being addressed in University campuses. Nat Hentoff a professor at New York University and a well
accredited writer gives his prospective and the prospective of others on the subject in. “Speech Codes
on the Campus and Problems of Free Speech” Nat Hentoff sites the impact that speech codes have on
campuses against freedom of thought and there impracticality.
Although Nat Hentoff points out the flaws in the idea of speech codes and it infringing on the
rights of others, he failed to include any prospective from supporters of the codes. I believe there is a
solution to the issue and a happy medium to satisfy everyone. Speech codes are not the answer.
Most of Nat Hentoff’s points prove true about the codes being vague and easily violated. I for
one have had my own experiences with the matter. One incident that comes to mind, a few co-workers
browsing the net came across a short jingle poking fun at the Mexican race. It was shared around the
office even to our HR person, which was very surprising to me. Overhearing I was very much offended
by the stereo type labeling of Mexicans. There where other Latino co-workers that did not get offended
and laughed about it. My thought was it was very inappropriate and they could have kept it to them
self’s to view. In this case and like many others everyone has a different reaction and point of view on
choice of speech. On the other hand I can relate to Nat Handoff’s perspective, I sometimes find myself
scrabbling for words with the fear of offending someone by saying Black person not African America.
In addition to the vagueness of the codes, Nat Hentoff identifies the effect the speech codes
have on campus. Students learn that specking freely about affirmative action, abortion or P.C political
correctness is strongly discouraged. Resulting students having to censor them self’s in class; and walk
on egg shells on campus with the fear of saying the wrong thing. I completely agree with Nat Handoffs’
view on this. From not only a students perspective but a Minority perspective I welcome the challenge
of others views. Different opinions and thinking attribute to productive learning. I am willing to listen to
opinions of others no matter how radical and wrong their ideas might be. On the other hand I think
spitting out discriminating slanders words or comments should not be tolerated.
Everyone has there own opinion whether we like it or not, and they should be able to express
them selves in that way. I think it can be done appropriately without ignorance. If we didn’t have
freedom of speech we would still have slavery. There must have been one Caucasian person out of them
all that spoke out against slavery, even though it was probably discouraged to think otherwise. A
statement highlighted in Nat Handoffs’ essay “I have always felt as a minority person that we have to
protect the rights of all because if we infringe on the rights of any persons, we’ll be next.” Although we
are looking to protect the minority groups it would be hypocritical to take freedoms away from anyone.
Nat Handoff’s subtlety persuasive writing gives perspective on speech codes from his
experiences and knowledge. Also includes great perspectives from a variety of resources. I think he
could have put in the effort of getting views from the other side of the argument. With all his knowledge
on the subject I would think he would be able to contribute alternatives to speech codes. Very educated
and formal the essay was directed to the Collage student body and Faculty.
In conclusion I believe there is a solution to the issue and a happy medium to satisfy everyone.
Speech codes are not the answer. Speeches codes are impractical and unclear having a negative impact
on collage campuses, suppressing freedom of thoughts and expression. I think the only way to solve this
is to be productive put our heads together and exploring alternative solutions to the problem. Race will
always be a hot subject. It’s up to us to set the example of find better solutions and over coming our
Works cited
Thomas, Gwen.”Speech Codes” On the Campus and Problems of Free Speech, from dissent (fall