Freedom of Speech, Juvenile Justice & Military Service
In Derek Bok’s essay Protecting Freedom of Expression on the Campus, Bok discusses freedom of expression as outlined in the U.S. Constitution as it applies to a recent incident at Harvard University, a private institution of higher learning. Two students displayed Confederate flags in public view. Those students upset over the display who viewed the flag as symbolic of racism and slavery, retaliated by displaying a swastika. In his essay, Bok develops the following argument: The First Amendment affords protection to free speech in public universities and colleges; Harvard is a private institution, therefore it is not afforded First Amendment protection. Even though this argument is logical and perfectly valid, Bok rejects one of its premises and concludes “I have difficulty understanding why a university such as Harvard should have less free speech than the surrounding society—or that of a public university” (44).
In making a case for censorship, Bok tries to appeal to the utilitarian concept of justice and good government. Utilitarianism argues that laws and actions should be devised so as to afford the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest amount of people. In his argument for censorship of offensive displays like Confederate flags and swastikas, Bok adopts the utilitarian premise as part of his reasoning “I am sure that the vast majority of Harvard students believe that hanging a Confederate flag in public view—or displaying a swastika in response—is insensitive and unwise because any satisfaction it gives to the students who display these symbols is far outweighed by the discomfort it cause so many others” (44).
Yet, despite acknowledging the fact that displaying such symbols upsets the feelings of others and disregards the impact of one’s actions on others, Bok admits that disapproving of a kind of communication it not justification eno...