Today, News Corp columnist, Andrew Bolt posted this criticising the University of Missouri’s policy on hate speech. The poster reads (use of bold will be mine to highlight crucial points):

To continue to ensure that the University of Missouri campus remains safe, the MU Police Department (MUPD), is asking individuals who witness incidents of hateful and/ or hurtful speech or actions to:

  • call the police immediately  at 573-882-7201 (if you’re in an emergency situation, call 911.)
  • Give the communications operator a summary of the incident, including the location
  • Provide a detailed description of the individual(s) involved
  • Provide a license plate and vehicle descriptions (if appropriate)
  • If possible, and if it can be done safely, take a photo of the individual(s) on your cell phone

Delays including posting information to social media can often reduce the chances of identifying the responsible parties. While cases of hateful or hurtful speech are not crimes, if the individual(s) identified are students, MU’s Office of Student Conduct can take disciplinary action.

Now, frankly, reading this, the fact that it’s not a crime in Missouri, apparently, I don’t see what the police can do. Aside from that, noticed the words I highlighted? “Remains safe” and “hateful and/ or hurtful”.

Why shouldn’t a University, regardless of where it is, remain both a physically and emotionally safe environment for all students and staff? Is verbal abuse suddenly OK? Sure, there are times when it can become overkill and people who don’t mean any harm can be falsely accused. That is a risk, I admit. That aside, again, I ask the question: why shouldn’t universities remain safe places for students and staff? Why are victims of hateful and hurtful speech are always just told to suck it up?

Let me put this to you straight: words hurt and sometimes it’s not possible to just “suck it up”. There is such a thing as verbal abuse. And it can be damaging, just like physical violence can. According to Herts Direct, signs of discriminatory abuse can include:

  • Low self – esteem
  • Depression
  • Fear
  • Anger

Fear is a very real one, believe me. So, why is it OK? We are forever talking about mental health, but yet, we don’t want to acknowledge a very possible cause of it. Why?

I’ll stress again, tackling things like discrimination should not result in false or overblown accusations that end up ruining someone’s career, reputation and livelihood. However, people, everyone, including minorities, should be able to be free from discrimination and abuse. Surely the two aren’t exclusive.

What do you think?

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