Information about Campus Speech

Understanding free speech, hate speech, and protected and unprotected speech can be very integral to fostering a campus that is equitable, inclusive and free of hate and bias. Binghamton University and the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion defines free speech and hate speech as follows:

What is Free Speech?

Free speech, or Freedom of Speech is the right to freely express opinions in words or actions and is constitutionally protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, as part of the U.S. Bill of Rights. Freedom of speech is also recognized as a human right under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The First Amendment guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. It forbids Congress from both promoting one religion over others and also restricting an individual’s religious practices. It guarantees freedom of expression by prohibiting Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely. It also guarantees the right of citizens to assemble peaceably and to petition their government.  

What is Hate Speech?

Hate speech can best be described as speech that offends, threatens, or insults individuals or groups, based on an aspect of ones identity, such as race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender identity or gender expression, sexual orientation, ability status, political affiliation/views, or other traits. While hate speech can be malicious in the campus environment, in many cases hate speech is still considered protected speech under the First Amendment.

What is Unprotected Speech?

The Supreme Court has recognized limited categories of speech where the government can regulate or limit speech; typically speech that may cause a breach of peace or cause violence. These categories include: commercial speech; time, place and manner restrictions; obscenity, defamation, fraud, incitement, fighting words, true threats, advocacy of illegal actions, and child pornography.

Additional Resources on Free Speech