POL S 499 E: Undergraduate Readings and Research

Meeting Time: 
T 3:30pm - 4:50pm
* *
Joint Sections: 
HUM 498 A
Jamie Mayerfeld

Syllabus Description:


Free Speech and Hate Speech
HUM 498/POLS 499E
Fall Quarter 2017


Instructor: Jamie Mayerfeld, with Frederick Lawrence
Meeting times: Tuesdays from Oct. 10 through Nov. 7, 3:30-5:00
Classroom location: Communications 202
Professor Mayerfeld’s office hours: Gowen 35, Tue 1:30-3:00 & Fri. 10:30-11:30

This course looks at normative controversies relating to freedom of speech. Among the questions we consider: On what grounds, if any, should governments and universities restrict speech? Should they have a right to prohibit hate speech and restrict offensive speech? What is hate speech? Is it morally wrong, and if so, why? Setting aside legal debates, how should we as ordinary citizens and members of a university community respond to hate speech, offensive speech, false speech, or otherwise harmful or worthless speech? To address these questions, we will read philosophical and legal scholarship and excerpted court opinions. Students will deepen their understanding of the legal, moral, and philosophical controversies regarding hate speech; learn about and critically engage weighty arguments on different sides of the debate; and develop their own well-informed and well-reasoned positions on the questions raised.

Students are expected to read the assigned texts with care and to participate thoughtfully in seminar.

Frederick Lawrence is the Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of the Phi Beta Kappa Society and a Visiting Professor of Law & Public Policy at Georgetown University. A leading scholar of civil rights and free speech jurisprudence, Lawrence has served as President of Brandeis University, Dean of the George Washington University Law School, and Visiting Professor and Senior Research Scholar at Yale Law School. He is the author of Punishing Hate: Bias Crimes Under American Law (Harvard University Press, 1999). Lawrence recently testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee about free speech, academic freedom, and civility on American college campuses.

Jamie Mayerfeld is Professor of Political Science at the University of Washington. He is the author of The Promise of Human Rights (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016) and Suffering and Moral Responsibility (Oxford University Press, 1999).

Course Schedule
Reading assignments subject to revision.
Please complete the assigned readings in time for seminar.

All readings will be posted on the course website.

Tuesday, October 10

Erwin Chemerinsky and Howard Gilman, Free Speech on Campus (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017), pp. 1-12

Charles R. Lawrence III, “If He Hollers Let Him Go: Regulating Racist Speech on Campus,” in Mari J. Matsuda, Charles R. Lawrence III, Richard Delgado, and Kimberlè Crenshaw, Words that Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, and the First Amendment (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1993)

Tuesday, October 17

Chemerinsky and Gilman, Free Speech on Campus, pp. 22-48

David Cole, “Why We Must Still Defend Free Speech,” New York Review of Books, September 28, 2017

Tuesday, October 24. We will joined by Frederick Lawrence.

Virginia v. Black 538 U.S. 343 (2003) (U.S. Supreme Court) (excerpts).

Frederick M. Lawrence, “Free Speech v. Hate Speech: The Changing Contours of Free Expression,” Bernard G. Segal Bernard G. Segal Memorial Lecture in Law and Ethics March 28, 2016

Tuesday, October 31

Sigal Ben-Porath, “Safety, Dignity and the Quest for a Democratic Campus Culture,” Philosophical Inquiry in Education 24 (2016): 79-85.

Andrew Altman, “Liberalism and Campus Hate Speech: A Philosophical Examination,” Ethics 103 (1993): 302-17.

Tuesday, November 7.  Please read the two the Cauce and Post articles or the McGowan article:

Ana Mari Cauce, “Free Speech and What It Means for All of Us,” President’s Blog, University of Washington, October 17, 2017, and

Robert C. Post, “There Is No 1st Amendment Right to Speak on a College Campus,” Vox, October 25, 2017


Mary Kate McGowan, “On ‘Whites Only’ Signs and Racist Hate Speech: Verbal Acts of Racial Discrimination,” in Speech and Harm: Controversies over Free Speech, ed. Ishani Maitra and Mary Kate McGowan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

Final assignment: Your final assignment is a think piece or essay, 2 to 4 pages long, which you can bring to class on Tuesday, November 7, but which is due no later than Thursday, November 9. (You may submit either a hard copy or electronic version.)

In your essay, please state and defend a position on one of the central controversies addressed in our seminar. In the course of your discussion, you must present and answer the strongest argument opposed to your position.

Here are two questions, either of which you could choose for your essay.

  1. Should government be permitted or even required to prohibit hate speech? If so, on what grounds and according to what guidelines? What is the strongest argument against your view, and why is it unpersuasive?
  2. Should colleges and universities be permitted or even required to prohibit hate speech? If so, on what grounds and according to what guidelines? What is the strongest argument against your view, and why is it unpersuasive?

Note that questions (1) and (2) are identical, except that the first addresses government while the second addresses colleges and universities.

There are several other questions that you could use as the basis of your essay.

Some recommended books

Ben-Porath, Sigal. Free Speech on Campus. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017.

Chemerinsky, Erwin, and Howard Gilman. Free Speech on Campus. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017.

Herz, Michael, and Peter Molnar, eds. The Content and Context of Hate Speech: Rethinking Regulation and Responses. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Lewis, Anthony. Freedom for the Thought that We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment. New York: Basic Books, 2007.

Maitra, Ishani, and Mary Kate McGowan, eds. Speech and Harm: Controversies over Free Speech. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Matsuda, Mari J. , Charles R. Lawrence III, Richard Delgado, and Kimberlè Crenshaw. Words that Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, and the First Amendment. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1993.

Waldron, Jeremy. The Harm in Hate Speech. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012.






Catalog Description: 
Intensive study with faculty supervision.
Department Requirements: 
No Major/Minor Credit
Last updated: 
August 2, 2019 - 9:08pm