Free Speech

Should Universities Recommend (or Demand) Epithet Filtering on Students' and Professors' Internet Devices?

A thought experiment that came to my mind; I'd love to hear what others think about it.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Some students, faculty, and administrators have argued that even hearing racial epithets quoted is traumatic or at least highly offensive to students, and that decent people therefore should not quote them. Most of these complaints have arisen with regard to quotes of the word "nigger," whether from court opinions, court case files, historical documents, literature, or otherwise. My view is that these words shouldn't be rendered taboo for serious academic discussion, and that there's a sharp difference between improper use of the words (especially to insult someone) and proper mention of how the words were used in a case or book or speech.

But let me try to approach the problem in a slightly different way; tell me if you think it's helpful.

I take it that if it's so damaging and unjustifiable for students to have to hear the word, it's also damaging and unjustifiable for them to have to see the word. Indeed, one of the recent complaints has been about a Stanford professor writing the word on the board; a commenter on this blog seems to be objecting to my even quoting the word in blog posts; others have mentioned similar objections.

And it's not surprising: We are all literate folk, and we all know the power of the written word; no-one would doubt, for instance, that e-mailing someone to call them by an epithet would be extremely insulting. If the use-mention distinction doesn't matter for oral statements, why should it matter for written ones? Yet whatever a professor may or may not say in class, students will likely see the word written in many places: It appears in over 10,000 court opinions on Westlaw, in thousands of law review articles, and in many other places, including history books, novels, and more.

Enter Advanced Profanity Filter, a Chrome app that expurgates whatever words it is set to expurgate. (That's its logo above.) The default list includes vulgarities and slurs, but it can be reconfigured as necessary. Anyone using the Filter can be shielded from seeing various words in Westlaw, on Google Scholar, or wherever else. Whether you're reading an online court opinion or a newspaper article or an e-mail, you'll see the word written as "n*****" or some such. (And if you want to distinguish situations the Filter changes from ones where the word is "n*****" in the original, you can use an unusual expurgation, such as "n@@@@@.")

Of course, this only works for normal text; I don't know of any such filter for PDF viewers. But it should be a fairly straightforward coding project (at least as to PDFs that have searchable text)—presumably a university that really thinks its students need such shielding could have its tech people create such a filter, and indeed then make it available to the whole world. Likewise, it could create such a filter for other browsers, and perhaps even have a voice recognition bleeper for videos, songs, and the like (though I realize that this is a harder task).

Then the university might have several options:

  1. It could encourage black students—and perhaps even professors—to run this filter, to prevent them from being traumatized by seeing "nigger." (It might perhaps encourage gay students to do the same, especially if it adds "faggot" to the list.)
  2. It could encourage all students and professors to run this filter, since many students object (or perhaps, in the university's view, should object) to such words even if they don't refer to the identity groups to which they belong. It could add other phrases that some students find offensive, such as "illegal alien." And the university could of course make it as easy as possible to use the filter, for instance turning it on by default on computers that it sells in the student store.
  3. It could require students and professors to run the filter, since this will remind them of the university's view that they shouldn't be quoting those words out loud: If students or professors is are an expurgated version of a case, this will make it more likely that they will say an expurgated version of the word as well. And this will also signal that the university refuses to allow its network used for spreading such awful words.

Do you think that universities should do this? A few possible answers, though there are many others:

[1.] Great idea! (Please indicate whether you'd go for option A, B, C, or something else.)

[2.] Not a good idea, because the filter can't tell whether a particular word was written by someone who is black (or, for other epithets, a member of the relevant group). The theory: There's nothing wrong with blacks quoting the word—it's only people of other races who shouldn't quote it, and a filter that filters out the writings of black authors that use the word is unacceptably overinclusive. But maybe there could be a filter focused on Westlaw, Lexis, and Google Scholar, which first identifies the opinion author's name and looks it up in a table that indicates each judge's race ….

[3.] Not a good idea, because reading the word is just fine and untraumatic, but hearing it (again, in a quote from a case or some such) is something that "[h]uman decency and respect for the feelings of others" forbids "without qualification."

[4.] This proposal is missing the point: The goal shouldn't be to prevent trauma to black students caused by seeing or hearing the word—it should be to stop white people (or, more generally, non-black people) from saying or writing the word, regardless of who sees or hears it. Even if black students are automatically shielded from it, so long as white people keep quoting it in material that they write (or keep including unexpurgated passages containing it in their course assignments or some such), that's still bad.

[5.] Not a good idea, because (A) university students should be encouraged to read actual sources as they actually exist (offensive words and all)—and (B) law students, who are joining a profession in which such words routinely appear (in opinions, briefs, case documents, trials, oral arguments, and witness interviews), should likewise be taught to get the raw information, offensive as it may be, and then to decide as a tactical matter how best to quote it. Encouraging students to filter out words like this, including when they read precedents, articles, books, and the like, is teaching them the opposite of the norms and practices that they need to learn.

As you might gather, I take the last of these views (for the reasons that Randall Kennedy and I lay out in Quoting Epithets in the Classroom and Beyond), but I'd love to hear what others think, both as to this question and as to the thought experiment more broadly.

NEXT: The Controversy Over Quoting Racial Epithets, Now at UC Irvine School of Law

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  1. Nobody’s going to filter me, if I want to say ____ I’ll say _____. Not to mention ____, _____, ____ and _____.

    1. I can’t believe you left out _____________!

    2. ______off, ____________!

  2. “Of course, this only works for normal text; I don’t know of any such filter for PDF viewers.”

    It’s been a few years since I played with this stuff, let alone sat through the vendor’s demonstration, but if you buy the full-feature (expensive) version of the Adobie PDF authoring software, you usually can open a .pdf document as text — and then do whatever you’d like with it as a text document.

    In fact, Word 2010 allows you to both save documents as .pdf and (I believe) then open them again as .docx (text) files. But it’s been a few years.

    1. It would depend on whether the original text is stored along with the graphic image in the .pdf (both kinds of .pdf exist). Or, in the case of graphics-only .pdfs, Acrobat is able to perform OCR (optical character recognition), but that (a) takes a little bit of time, and (b) is far from perfect.

      1. Agreed. And then the screen reader for the blind often proceeded to do funky things on top of this. Grrrrr….

        My point was that a fascist could require the .txt version of the .pdf and hence censor those too….

        1. Presumably, the actual fascists would just burn the original, and call it a day.

  3. They could tell students they’re all grown up now and if an academically quoted word is debilitating to them, then they are welcome to talk to a psychiatrist or other counselor to help them decide whether they’re able to function in the adult world. And to undergo whatever therapy or other treatment might eventually allow them to become able to return to class and face the world.

    1. Ben — it’s the voodoo scientists who are the problem here — its THEY who are preaching this “debilitating” bullshite to them.

      What is actually debilitating is their inability to successfully compel the speech of others — that’s the issue here an it is quite scary.

      1. There’s apparently a wide subset of American society that feels triggered by the words “happy” and “holidays”.

        1. Yeah, the ones who were forced to say that instead of “Merry Christmas” because of a bunch of prog Nazi’s.

          1. Oh really?

            The government made a rule?

            I miss that.

            1. I missed that.

          2. I am not a Christian, but I have no problem saying “Merry Christmas” to anyone. People need to chill out. But the genesis of this problem came from actions taken by my fellow Jewish tribe members in the 20th Century.

            1. Christmas has become a great holiday. A day off, family gathering, gifts, mistletoe, the tree, Run Run Rudolph, holiday lights, candy canes, Santa Claus, cookies . . . and, of course everything great about Christmas, perfectly wrapped.

              In my judgment, behind only Thanksgiving and Halloween among the American holidays.

            2. Why can’t the goyim just say “Good yom tov” like a normal human?

              1. Ummm, because the goyim SPEAK ENGLISH…..

            3. I don’t usually have a vested interest in what kind of Christmas, merry or otherwise, someone else chooses to have. from a utilitarian standpoint, “happy holidays” is better because it wishes many happy days for the recipient, whereas “merry Christmas” wishes the recipient only one merry day.
              Have whatever kind of holiday(s) you like, whenever you’d like to have them.

          3. Yeah, all those people forced to say “Happy Holidays”, the poor blighters.

            1. And the ones who refused, and were taken ’round back and shot.

    2. And it should provide you a link to the appropriate counselor nearest them!

    3. Absolutely agree with you, Ben. I also think that many, if not most or all, who seek to banish certain words because they find them hurtful, are really seeking the power to ban ideas with which they disagree.

      1. But rather than just assume bad faith, a genuine offer of therapy or counseling allows bad faith to reveal itself.

        1. Have you ever seen a voodoo scientist improve things?

          I haven’t….

          1. No one is going to go to counseling. Posturing and crybullying are tactics.

          2. “a voodoo scientist improve things?”

            They can cure zombies.

  4. The issue here is one of power — bare naked power.

    I don’t think that anyone is truly offended by hearing the word — instead it is a desire (need?) to have the power to prevent others from using it. To have the power to purge it from the environment.

    Hence it wouldn’t be the Black students needing to have this filter as much as the demand that everyone else have it.

    And the underlying fascism of such a demand is being missed.

    1. Simply filtering someone’s words to make it more soothing to the ears of a tender listener or reader is not the end game. The software would also need broadcast that wrong-think has occurred, and that the transgressors needs punishment.

      1. Exactly…..

  5. In my day there was one word that triggered students of all races, sexes and socio-economic backgrounds.

    That word was “exam.”

    1. That and red pens.

      Damn it, I *still* use a red pen, albeit an electronic one.

      1. The argument is that these words shouldn’t be treated with red pens, but with scissors.

      2. Back when assigning grades was part of my job, it was mostly done in blue ink. I was correcting papers, not shaming students.

        1. Nor was/am I. I felt/feel that they were/are entitled to see what I am writing.

          Besides, I accepted blue pen from students — I accepted anything other than crayon, and likely would have accepted that if a good case could be made for it, e.g. disability.

    2. exams are only scary to the unprepared.

      1. This turns out not to be the case. Plenty of very well prepared folk find exams scary – fear of failure etc – and in some cases the fear adversely affects their performance.

        Lightly prepared folk are also a bit on edge, with much better reason, but for some of those, the fear is performance enhancing, like the anticipatory nerves before a big game of football, or some other kind of sporting endeavour.

        I was one of the latter type and would squeeze 150% of my potential marks out of an exam, while others – much more prepared and deserving might only squeeze out 60% of their potential. My goddaughter is one of this latter type. She used to spend every waking hour studying, but was always in a panic before exams.

        Different personality types.

        No doubt there are some who were well prepared and not scared, and they do well. But they are overprepared for the exam, and underprepared for the recreational aspects of life.

        1. ” Plenty of very well prepared folk find exams scary – fear of failure etc – and in some cases the fear adversely affects their performance.”

          Then they weren’t as prepared as they thought they were.

          “Lightly prepared folk are also a bit on edge, with much better reason, but for some of those, the fear is performance enhancing, like the anticipatory nerves before a big game of football, or some other kind of sporting endeavour.”

          In sports, adrenaline actually can improve performance. However, it does not improve memory access, and has an known inhibitory effect on storing long-term memories and analytical thought.

          “fear is the mind-killer. It is the little death that brings total obliteration.”
          –Frank Herbert

  6. Universities should stay out of it entirely. The fact that such an app is available is great for those who decide for themselves their sensitivities demand it, but young people surely are technologically savvy enough to find this app on their own.

    I suppose that means i vote for #5 but

    “Encouraging students to filter out words like this, including when they read precedents, articles, books, and the like, is teaching them the opposite of the norms and practices that they need to learn.” It’s also endorsing the idea that they should expect to live in a world where they are entitled to not be offended. Nobody is doing these young people any favors by teaching them such nonsense, especially baby lawyers

  7. 7) Not a good idea because if the replacement phrase is n*****, everyone knows what you’re saying. If we were to say something like “Donald Trump is a n***** lover,” the fact that we’ve blocked out 5 letters doesn’t really make the statement less offensive.

    On the other hand, if we block out the word entirely “Donald Trump is a _______ lover,” all context is lost, and no one really knows what was meant.

    1. He’s a nature lover? Really? Who knew?

      1. ah Clem

        Certain not the environment! [rimshot]

    2. They would be more likely to insist Trump’s name be excised.

      1. For some, this may be accurate.

    3. Please do not use the five-letter word “Trump.” I find it traumatizing.

      1. I’ll use the longer synonym “failure” in place of “Trump” from now on.

  8. Option A , reason 1. Use of a memory hole doubleplusgood.

  9. [5.], of course. Truth is paramount. The centuries have answered.

    1. How do you know what the centuries have answered? You have no way of telling if past truths were censored, or if what has come down to us is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

      1. The winners wrote all the histories.

  10. What I have learned from my limited management experience is that if you treat students or employees like children, they will behave like children, and if you treat them like adults they will act like adults.

    When I was working in academia i knew of a major business school that would turn off the internet to the classroom once the lecture started to stop students from surfing the web while in class. This was for both undergrads and MBA students. Dumb idea then, dumb idea now.

    My take is that if someone wants to use a filter like that, fine. But I don’t think it should be encouraged and certainly not required.

    1. “When I was working in academia i knew of a major business school that would turn off the internet to the classroom once the lecture started to stop students from surfing the web while in class. This was for both undergrads and MBA students. Dumb idea then, dumb idea now.”

      When I was in academia, I would routinely disable the network in the classroom from accessing Internet. This had two purposes… first it got management off my back because there was a window in the back of the classroom where prospective students could see the classes being taught, and the students in the class didn’t always confine their browsing to sites appropriate for marketing the school to prospective students. Second, it protected the students’s installs of server operating systems from probes coming in from the Internet looking for unpatched software.

      1. Well, I’m just evil enough to play a pre-downloaded .mpeg file of the most graphic porno you can imagine — and having my laptop facing said window. Yes, I am that evil….

        And now, with two different cell phone companies telling me that their cell phones can be used as a “hot spot”, disabling the network is likely a moot point.

        1. “And now, with two different cell phone companies telling me that their cell phones can be used as a “hot spot”, disabling the network is likely a moot point”

          You an your porn collection would have been expelled… no refunds, sorry… and a hotspot doesn’t fix a router that routes all your traffic to the bit bucket. Why don’t you just watch your porn on your phone?

          1. “You an your porn collection would have been expelled… no refunds, sorry… and a hotspot doesn’t fix a router that routes all your traffic to the bit bucket. Why don’t you just watch your porn on your phone?”

            1: Expelled on what grounds? Exactly what grounds?
            Even at a private university, students have contractual rights which lawyers are increasingly litigating. Furthermore, going through my computer is like going through a woman’s purse, there are a lot of legal landmines there.

            Unless it was (a) a private university and (b) you had an explicit morality policy (e.g. Liberty Univ.), I don’t know what you could do. (It’s also a FERPA violation to let prospective students see student’s laptop screens.)

            2: You clearly don’t know what a cellphone hotspot is. It has its own IP address… (The IP address belongs to the Telco and not to the school.) It’s a completely independent connection to the internet backbone, it doesn’t go anywhere near your router and hence your router can’t touch it.

            3: The only way your router could redirect to |/dev/null would be if you illegally hacked into the private/independent connection somehow. This would be immediately noticed (i.e. no download) and there would be a record of it. There are log files, lots of log files, and while the student might not be able to access them, the Telco could and would.

            You not only would have committed a serious Federal felony but would (a) be identified, (b) be in US jurisdiction, and (c) have clear evidence of your guilt. You’d need a good lawyer — and the Feds do prosecute this sort of stuff.

            4: The only other thing you could do would be to install a cell phone jammer. They are (I’m told) very easy to build — and highly illegal. It’s an unlicensed radio transmitter broadcasting on frequencies you aren’t licensed to use, the FCC takes a very dim view of this.

            This, too, is fairly easy to catch — enough complaints to the Telco about no service in a specific area and they well might check into it — and a jammer only works because your signal is way stronger than theirs, so they wouldn’t have to be in the actual classroom to identify it. More likely you will be caught by the local Fire or PD as most of these jammers mess up their radios as well, and they actually bring in folk from Motorola and try to figure out why their radios don’t work in certain areas.

            5: You also don’t know what a .mpeg file is — it’s on the local hard drive and the only way to touch it is to maliciously invade the computer (e.g. malware) and that’s illegal. You’d be identifiable and my guess is that the Feds would prosecute.

            Notwithstanding that, say instead of a .jpg file (or the Windows 10 default .jpg) for my screen saver, say I have a .mpeg. Say said porno .mpeg. And my computer went to screen saver because I stopped typing — because you weren’t saying anything worth taking notes on.

            Now on what grounds are you going to expel me?

            For having a screen saver that you don’t like? Really….

            1. Now I’m presuming that you know what an IP address is and have at least a marginal understanding of how TCP/IP works.

              If not, look at it this way — if I’m running my laptop on its battery and you shut off all the AC power, is it going to affect my computer?

              Why won’t it?

              Come on, think for a minute….

              1. “If not, look at it this way — if I’m running my laptop on its battery and you shut off all the AC power, is it going to affect my computer?”

                Yes, it is. and the fact that you premised the rest of your comment on the assumption that the answer is no tells us everything we need to know about your technical expertise, which is nil.

            2. (It’s also a FERPA violation to let prospective students see student’s laptop screens.)

              No. It isn’t. Remember how you keep saying “IANALNDIWTBO”? Maybe stick to that.

              1. It’s not just lawyers who know about FERPA — nor enforce it.
                And my experience is that most lawyers are quite ignorant of it.
                And you don’t need a JD to work for OCR — and that you can look up on Fed Jobs.

                Now maybe there’s a dear colleague letter I missed, and I know that ED isn’t being exactly clear on this, but if you have evidence that I am wrong, please present it.

                1. Furthermore, FERPA is really more education policy than law — so stick to law and let those of us who know education policy deal with education policy.

                  FERPA “compliance” is also an accreditation issue….

                  1. No, FERPA is a law. An actual statute, passed by Congress. With accompanying regulations in the C.F.R.

                    (Nor is there any evidence you “know education policy.” Making up some anecdotes that nobody including you believes doesn’t constitute knowledge.)

                    1. He’s got the Trump disease. He thinks that if he just acts like he knows what he’s talking about, other people will believe him. Pointing out that he lacks knowledge or ability just causes him to double down on bluster. Spare him your wisdom and facts, he’s got no use for either one.

                2. If you know education policy like you know IT, I’m not hiring you to do either one.

                3. but if you have evidence that I am wrong, please present it.

                  How can I have evidence that a law doesn’t do something? Cite the portion of the statute that you think forbids schools from having windows in the back of their classrooms such that someone walking by can see what is on a student’s laptop screen.

              2. ” ‘(It’s also a FERPA violation to let prospective students see student’s laptop screens.)’

                No. It isn’t. Remember how you keep saying “IANALNDIWTBO”? Maybe stick to that.

                Even if it was, the idiot seems to think that the school’s desktop computers have laptop screens.

                1. Schools still have desktop computers in classrooms?

                  In 2020?

                  How backward *is* this institution of purported higher education???

                  1. “Schools still have desktop computers in classrooms?

                    In 2020?”

                    No, but they did in 2005.

                    “How backward *is* this institution of purported higher education???
                    Not backward enough to hire you. keep looking!

                    1. You might have been tipped off that you were reading a historical anecdote by the words “back when”, if you were capable of analytical thinking.

            3. “1: Expelled on what grounds? Exactly what grounds?
              Even at a private university, students have contractual rights which lawyers are increasingly litigating. Furthermore, going through my computer is like going through a woman’s purse, there are a lot of legal landmines there.”

              Improper use of Internet. You don’t have a contractual right to access pornography using the school’s IT equipment, rather you contractually committed not to do so. as a result your contractual right to continue attending classes is ended when you decided that rule doesn’t apply to you. Too bad, so sad.

              furthermore, going through OUR computer is nothing like going through a woman’s purse.

              “2: You clearly don’t know what a cellphone hotspot is. It has its own IP address… (The IP address belongs to the Telco and not to the school.) It’s a completely independent connection to the internet backbone, it doesn’t go anywhere near your router and hence your router can’t touch it.”

              Good idea, try to lecture about technology with the IT guy. Your cellular hotspot and its own IP address do you absolutely no good if you haven’t a way to connect to it. You’re sitting in front of a computer that is wired to an Ethernet network which goes through the router I control. Setting up your cellular hotspot gives you some thrills, I suppose, but it doesn’t change Ethernet to 802.11. Your hotspot is running but the computers aren’t connecting to, or through, it. Go home and watch as much porn as you want.

              “3: The only way your router could redirect to |/dev/null would be if you illegally hacked into the private/independent connection somehow”

              What still. You don’t understand how this stuff works, and you insist on continuing to display that fact. You don’t have a private/independent connection to tap into. So the firewall will continue to apply the rules I gave it to the connection that you haven’t changed.

              “4: The only other thing you could do would be to install a cell phone jammer.”

              If I thought I needed one, which I do not. On the other hand, your hotspot is interfering with our secure wireless network, which is another, independent reason to expel you.

              “5: You also don’t know what a .mpeg file is — it’s on the local hard drive and the only way to touch it is to maliciously invade the computer (e.g. malware) and that’s illegal. You’d be identifiable and my guess is that the Feds would prosecute.”

              If the feds, (sorry, the Feds) prosecuted people for maliciously invading their own computers, they’d have a very poor conviction rate. Also .mpeg files don’t necessarily reside locally, you idiot. Have you never heard of a network? Guess that’s why you’re sitting in my Network Theory classroom.

              “Notwithstanding that, say instead of a .jpg file (or the Windows 10 default .jpg) for my screen saver, say I have a .mpeg. Say said porno .mpeg. And my computer went to screen saver because I stopped typing — because you weren’t saying anything worth taking notes on.
              Now on what grounds are you going to expel me?”

              You just admitted hacking one of our computers to install a porno .mpg in place of standard windows jpegs.

              1. Improper use of Internet. You don’t have a contractual right to access pornography using the school’s IT equipment, rather you contractually committed not to do so. as a result your contractual right to continue attending classes is ended when you decided that rule doesn’t apply to you. Too bad, so sad.

                And that, boys ‘n’ girls, is how administrators wind up becoming national embarrassments. Let me throw a couple of possibilities at you.

                1: A gay activist (yes, there are such folk, remember _Masterpiece Cake_?) does so hoping you will expel him. He may have only registered for this purpose.

                He then screams “homophobia” and folk like Lambda Legal come running and your life gets interesting. Can you prove you’ve expelled 10 heterosexual students under identical circumstances?
                And then in something like 38 states, the STATE will be going after you for civil damages, both you personally and your employer.

                Heck, Maura Healey might take a pause in suing Exxon/Mobil & Donald Trump to figure out how to bring criminal charges against you.

                2: A pragmatic administrator reverses the expulsion and quietly cuts the student a 5 or 6 figure check. I’ve seen stuff like that happen.

                ” You’re sitting in front of a computer that is wired to an Ethernet network which goes through the router I control.

                How — 20th Century.
                I’ll bet you are proud to have finally upgraded to 486s…

                You don’t understand how this stuff works, and you insist on continuing to display that fact.”

                Let me guess — you’re still running COBOL as well.

                On the other hand, your hotspot is interfering with our secure wireless network, which is another, independent reason to expel you.

                Ummm — the FCC would beg to differ with you on that — read the fine print on your EULAs, or look up 47 CFR 15.

                You just admitted hacking one of our computers to install a porno .mpg in place of standard windows jpegs.

                No, I presumed that I would have my own laptop like most (all?) students do in the 21st Century.

                1. “And that, boys ‘n’ girls, is how administrators wind up becoming national embarrassments. Let me throw a couple of possibilities at you.”

                  This really means something, coming from a national embarrassment. THAT’s a field I can believe you are an expert in.

                  “1: A gay activist (yes, there are such folk, remember _Masterpiece Cake_?) does so hoping you will expel him. He may have only registered for this purpose. ”

                  Masterpiece Cake was conveniently located in the same county. It doesn’t however, establish a positive right to view pornography in public using other people’s computer equipment.

                  “2: A pragmatic administrator reverses the expulsion and quietly cuts the student a 5 or 6 figure check. I’ve seen stuff like that happen.”

                  You seem to be having your wet dreams in public. Nobody’s getting a 5 or 6 figure check for watching porn on somebody else’s computer, then OR now.

                  “You don’t understand how this stuff works, and you insist on continuing to display that fact.”

                  Let me guess — you’re still running COBOL as well. ”

                  The fact that you think this is cutting (or funny) shows that you have no awareness of the topic you’re seeking to lecture me on.

                  “Ummm — the FCC would beg to differ with you on that — read the fine print on your EULAs, or look up 47 CFR 15. ”

                  No need, we just need to look at the contract you signed when you started attending our school. The one that covers taking any action that interferes with any other student having access to services. Bu-bye.

                  “No, I presumed that I would have my own laptop like most (all?) students do in the 21st Century.”

                  Hello, mr. privilege. There’s this thing called the “digital divide”. You might want to look it up. In the part of the 21st century this anecdote was drawn from, laptops were far from ubiquitous.
                  This is just another case of you bringing your assumptions to a story that you neither understood nor care to.

                2. “I presumed that I would have my own laptop like most (all?) students do in the 21st Century.”

                  One of those laptops that operate exactly the same on battery as on AC, right?

    2. Require anyone who is susceptible to offense to use such software. Have as part of their honor code and contract with the university the personal requirement to shield themselves using this free and ubiquitous tool.
      Then give immunity to any speaker/writer of such words, the responsibility for unhearing -unseeing them resting on the recipient only.
      This way everyone gets to be a responsible individual for themselves.

      1. That’s not the issue — they wish to muzzle others.

        1. Just the ones who want to watch porn in public.

          1. I’d debate that “in public” part — no other student ought to be watching my screen, and the prospective student part is a FERPA violation.

            Say I was taking an exam on said laptop — would that be considered “in public” or would there be issues with other students seeing what I was writing on my screen? Hmmmm?????

            1. This laptop you keep talking about… where did it come from? You started out in a discussion of my firewall rules as applied in my actual classroom, which had desktop computers in it. You’re taking an exam on this laptop you’ve imagined. You’re not going to do very well on the exam, which is a piece of paper you were handed. When you hand it in, still blank, that’s a “0”.

              To answer your question, yes, in the middle of a classroom is “in public”, and not subject to much debate.

              1. “This laptop you keep talking about… where did it come from?”

                For at least a decade now, every university I’m familiar with has provided a campus-wide WiFi network for students to connect to with their own laptops.

                1. “For at least a decade now” does not include the relevant time period, nor are there any in the historical anecdote you were provided with.

                  1. Secondly, as you were previously informed, this historical anecdote took place in a vocational college, not a university. The secure wireless network was cryptographically opaque to students who brought their own laptops.

        2. “That’s not the issue — they wish to muzzle others.”

          More correctly they wish certain others would muzzle themselves.

    3. “What I have learned from my limited management experience is that if you treat students or employees like children, they will behave like children, and if you treat them like adults they will act like adults.”

      I’d have to say the results are more mixed and not as clear-cut as this suggests in my own experience. It only takes one Dr. Ed to ruin things for everyone. Whoops! Autocorrect seems to have filtered out my attempt to use the word A$$h0l3.

  11. None of these options goes far enough. They only block offensive words. But what we want to be protected against is offensive IDEAS. If some professor or writer or student writes or says something favorable about (say) free enterprise, our sensibilities will be offended even if the phrase is rendered as f*** e&&&&&&&&&.

    But don’t worry Prof. V. They’ve got their top brains working on a solution. It’s only a matter of time.

    1. Scary thing is that they do.

  12. “Should Universities Recommend (or Demand) Epithet Filtering on Students’ and Professors’ Internet Devices?”

    Correct answer: Fuck no!

    1. But maybe malware filtering for all devices.

  13. (1) I’m not a lawyer but a philologist and writer of dictionaries: we lexicographers too are obliged to consider evidence in the raw, digest it, and present it comprehensively and coherently: the thought that anyone would try to filter that evidence is more offensive than any word. (2) Given humanity’s thousands of years’ experience in formulating taboo language and then evading bans on it, I am skeptical that any filter could do more than incentivize the ingenious to come up with new ways to evade it. People do that now to evade Facebook filters, as you know. If the taboo word were ‘dog’, immediately everyone would be writing “ↁ∅ↅ”. So I vote for 5.

    1. Or changing “Xi” to “Pooh”.

      1. Or changing “Trump” to “failure”.

        1. Or “Savior of the Republic”

          1. Or the fourth person of the trinity, which is how some of his followers view him.

            1. The fifth of four, based on his displaying interest in altering the monument on Mt. Rushmore.

              1. That could happen.
                More because of how much it would upset people than anything else…

                1. And that sums up Trump governance a nutshell. Not whether it’s good policy but whether it will upset some people.

                  1. PIssing off the libs is the core of his popularity where he is popular (which is among people who wish they were powerful or smart enough to piss off the libs).

                2. He could declare an emergency and divert money from military construction to pay for the new carving.

                  1. He could declare an emergency and assume dictatorial powers because of the Wuhan Flu. But did he?

                    1. The fact that Mr. Trump isn’t smart enough to do all the things he might have wanted to do doesn’t prove he doesn’t want to do them.

                3. “That could happen”
                  Sure. The nice people running ISIS and Afghanistan occupied themselves destroying cultural heritage. Why shouldn’t His Royal Obtuseness miss out on the fun?

  14. I firmly come down on option 5. No filters, nada. No research topics are impermissible because valid, diligent work might come up with a “wrong” answer that violates people’s prejudices.
    Damn the thought police. Full steam ahead with rigorous intellectual inquiry.

    1. The person who pays the Internet bill gets to decide what Internet use is authorized. Back in the 90’s, the University of Washington had a sizable collection of pornographic images on an FTP server, and it drew a LOT of traffic.

      1. James,
        No university provides internet for free. Its csts are part of fees and tuitions.
        Think deeper.

        1. 25-30 years ago, AOL (remember them?) decided to install obscene word blockers — much to the offense of Christian grandmothers who wanted to trade recipes which included a “chicken breast.”

          Breast cancer survivors were also more than slightly upset — they wanted to discuss stuff about breast cancer with others.

          AOL had never considered any of this when it had banned the word “breast.”

          1. AOL had the collective intelligence of a shoebox full of geology samples. Like the Republican party, they required a supply of idiots to buy what they had to sell. as the supply of idiots dwindled, so did profits.

        2. “No university provides internet for free. Its csts are part of fees and tuitions.”

          Their Internet is subsidized by people who pay for telephone service. Look at your phone bill, there’s a good chance that the tax is itemized for you. It’s probably labeled something like “FCC Universal Service Fee”. Some providers have stopped itemizing it, but they all charge it.

          1. James, that fee provides internet to public libraries and K-12 (as well as Obamaphones). It does not subsidize university internet.

            The .edu domain once did, but that was in licensing fees back in the APRANET/BITNET days — and the real cost today is in bandwidth.

            And at a university, it’s being paid for by the students — which is an issue in that they’re increasingly not using it.

            1. Our Internet service (that OC3 I mentioned earlier) was subsidized.

              1. Wow — if so and your students were adults, it raises all kinds of First Amendment issues.

                1. In the sense that a stupid person might come along and start talking about the First Amendment.

  15. I encountered this once while preparing to perform in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, which includes a “Blackamoor” in the cast, with all the offensive cliches: the character is stupid, servile, and oversexed. Well, here, watch while you still can, because I’m sure this video will be censored right into the memory hole any time now:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4ofBxaWdLs&t=2439s

    Anyway, there was a black guy in the cast and we found ourselves talking about it and the conversation drifted a bit and I needed to explain that the video one sees sometimes of LBJ shouting “Nigger! Nigger! Nigger!” was actually not an expression of bigotry; it was part of a larger speech where he was complaining to his supporters (paraphrasing here:) “I’m trying to solve problems, but with my opponents it’s all ‘Nigger! Nigger! Nigger!'” meaning that the opponents were persistently trying to distract the other members with vulgar racism. So I told my black fellow cast-member: “Since I’m sensitive about this, I’ll say ‘finger’ instead of the n-word. The video shows him shouting ‘Finger! Finger! Finger!'” And just continued using the substitution for the rest of the conversation. That worked out reasonably well.

  16. Is the price of the app sufficiently parsimonious for a niggardly fellow such as myself?

    And what if I was in Britain, and wanted a ‘fag’ (cigarette)? Or I needed a faggot (a bundle of sticks) to light my campfire?

    1. Don’t use the terms “parsimonious” and “niggardly” when you are posting on a blog run by a Jew! That’s an offensive stereotype. You might just as well be calling Eugene a “miser”.

    2. It was hilarious with the British exchange students at UMass.

      1. Do they enjoy watching the same porn as you do?

        1. How did they react when you asked them for some fag porn?

  17. Attempting to censor the Internet is a good way to drive your IT staff crazy, and doesn’t produce any other effects long-term.

    there’s this thing called a “relay proxy”, that lets people connect to the Internet indirectly circumventing filtering. They are readily found by Google. Many are run by well-meaning people attempting to let people limited by their government have access to the free flow of information, and then there are also the ones who are intending to let students and workers evade filtering by their schools and employers. This category funds its operations by placing ads, and occasionally, by distributing malware. New relay proxy sites regularly appear because of the people who want to help other people find freedom, and the profit potential of the huge captive audience for ads created by American schools and businesses that try to censor the Internet.

    It’s even possible to use Google to access unfiltered Internet, by using Google Translate to translate from English to English.

    It used to be my job to keep college students from wasting time on Facebook. I did this by turning off all Internet access to college computers that accessed relay proxy sites. (Yes, we told the students that Internet access was monitored and that improper use of Internet was not allowed.)

    1. “It used to be my job to keep college students from wasting time on Facebook. I did this by turning off all Internet access to college computers that accessed relay proxy sites.”

      Aha — you were one of the academic nazis — and one of the reasons why higher education is going to implode in the near future.

      1: You do know that you were blocking access to information from/to/about totalitarian states such as PRC, Myanmar, and DPRK, don’t you?

      2: Sooner or later, some fascist like you is going to be on the receiving end of a lawsuit, particularly at a public university. If the university increasingly demands students access notices electronically, and then cuts off internet access, the university is failing to provide legally required notices. The internet isn’t a toy the way it was in the 1990s.

      3: Both of the above are increasingly moot because campus networks have deteriorated so badly that most students, particularly those with money, have gone to the Cell Hotspots. AT&T sells a nice rig, the size of a flash card reader, that plugs into an USB port and provides internet access via AT&T.

      4: 20-30 years ago, University Internet was a strong selling point both to attend the university and to live in its dorms. Not so much anymore — and that’s going to be realized, post pandemic.

      5: What people tend to forget is that it was the sky-high campus long distance rates of the 1990s that made it cheaper for parents to buy their children cell phones. (The “free nights & weekends” was a good marketing strategy, but a daytime cell call was the same price (and then less) than what the university was charging for the wired phone.

      1. “Sooner or later, some fascist like you is going to be on the receiving end of a lawsuit, particularly at a public university.”

        Hint: I worked at a private vocational college, so if they sue me at a public university, I should be fine.

        ” Both of the above are increasingly moot because campus networks have deteriorated so badly that most students, particularly those with money, have gone to the Cell Hotspots.”

        I was managing access to an OC3. If you think you’ll get better connectivity from a cell hotspot, it’s because you are extremely stupid.

        “4: 20-30 years ago, University Internet was a strong selling point both to attend the university and to live in its dorms.”

        We didn’t have dorms 30 years ago, when I was a student, the dorms didn’t have Internet. there was one teletype terminal in the basement connected by a dial-up line to the computer center.

        “5: What people tend to forget is that it was the sky-high campus long distance rates of the 1990s that made it cheaper for parents to buy their children cell phones.”

        Once again, the key words are “vocational” and “school”. Our students WERE parents. If they wanted to talk to somebody, their choices were to bring their own phone, or use carrier pigeons. They weren’t using the schools’ phones.

        Finally, for the particularly slow, say, of Dr. Ed level or below… relay proxy sites were a consistent source of malware infection. You’d have to be an idiot of Dr. Ed proportions to allow people to use your computer systems to access malware distribution sites.

        1. Hint: I worked at a private vocational college

          Possibly Corinthian Colleges? They got sued a *lot*, both in the US and in Canada. And I don’t think that’s over yet, there’s mention of both discharge of student loans and an ED clawback of some convoluted nature — it’s beyond me.

          I was managing access to an OC3. If you think you’ll get better connectivity from a cell hotspot, it’s because you are extremely stupid.

          And UMass is an Internet 2 site, which is a tad faster than OC3 🙂

          The initial UM protocol (that I helped write) was that *each* student was to have 10 mbs and (on paper) I think they are still supposed have that. But reality is that cell phone hotspots ARE FASTER and if you have a scintilla of knowledge about computer networks, you’d understand how that is possible.

          “We didn’t have dorms 30 years ago, when I was a student, the dorms didn’t have Internet. there was one teletype terminal in the basement connected by a dial-up line to the computer center.”

          In 1990, in my dorm room, I had 9600 kbs dial-in access to the computer center.

          “Once again, the key words are “vocational” and “school”. Our students WERE parents. If they wanted to talk to somebody, their choices were to bring their own phone, or use carrier pigeons. They weren’t using the schools’ phones.”

          Seeing as how many (most) were single parents, who (legally) need to be contacted if anything happens to their child, that’s a really responsible attitude to have.

          1. “Possibly Corinthian Colleges?”

            that the source of your “doctorate”?

            ” reality is that cell phone hotspots ARE FASTER and if you have a scintilla of knowledge about computer networks, you’d understand how that is possible.”

            As I said before, if you are particularly stupid, the cellular hotspot is faster.

            “In 1990, in my dorm room, I had 9600 kbs dial-in access to the computer center. ”

            Good for you. In 1986, we had a 110 bps teletype in the basement. And in 1998, I worked for a school that didn’t have anything in the dorm, because no dorms.

            “Seeing as how many (most) were single parents, who (legally) need to be contacted if anything happens to their child, that’s a really responsible attitude to have.”

            You have as much information about our student body as you do about IT in general, but seem to have the ability to fill in from imagination on an as-needed basis.
            How is the legal responsibility of the hypothetical single parents transferred to the business serving them?

            1. How is the legal responsibility of the hypothetical single parents transferred to the business serving them?

              That, boys ‘n’ girls, is why the Higher Ed Industry is in trouble.

              It’s called “customer service” and customer service does not mean lowering academic standards. Instead, it means treating students the way you’d want to be treated, being basically decent to them, and remembering that they are the reason why you are getting a paycheck.

              It’s not just that price has increased but customer service has declined.

              And back to what so offended this instructor — the porno .mpg was only because (a) I wasn’t supposed to and (b) he was so poor an instructor that I was either bored or lost — or both.

              Students in the back of the classroom wouldn’t have been dealing with distractions had they been engaged in the class.

              He might also wish to look at the mistake Bush 41 made with flagburning — no one burned the American flag until GHWB attempted to ban it — then everyone did.

              1. “It’s not just that price has increased but customer service has declined.”

                You can call it customer service that you can’t download your porn at school, but I reserve the right to laugh directly into your stupid face for making that claim.

                Because you are stupid enough to keep coming back with stupider and stupider claims, I have to treat you as if you are actively becoming stupider. Possibly a side effect of exposure to AM talk radio.

                This is a vocational school setting. Students come to this establishment to learn skills that will help them to obtain better employment than they have previously enjoyed. One of the (many) things that raises your employability is not consuming porn in public, so this is one of the things the school teaches. To the students capable of learning. You insist in demonstrating yourself to be outside of this category.

              2. ” back to what so offended this instructor”

                What so offended this instructor is your stupidity, and arrogance to the point where you thought you just might lecture me about the things you didn’t understand.

              3. ” (b) he was so poor an instructor that I was either bored or lost — or both.”

                You were lost because you weren’t even registered for that class.

          2. “The initial UM protocol (that I helped write) was that *each* student was to have 10 mbs”

            Get your units straight, first of all. If you wrote a protocol that each student was to get 10 millibits per second, they’re lucky they got anything.

            1. And you never made a tyPo…

              1. I didn’t make that claim. When I make a typo that changes the meaning of what I meant to say, I make a correction.

          3. “Seeing as how many (most) were single parents, who (legally) need to be contacted if anything happens to their child, that’s a really responsible attitude to have.”

            I was a single parent, and I finished law school, and I’ve never heard of this legal requirement you want to bring up. Tell me more about it.

            1. With the exception of life-threatening injuries, an injured or sick child can not receive medical care without parental permission. That is a legal requirement — I believe in all states.

              Facilitating this communication is just considered a decent thing to do. Or would you prefer two city cops to barge into your classroom unannounced — which is the alternative if the school can’t reach the parent.

              1. “With the exception of life-threatening injuries, an injured or sick child can not receive medical care without parental permission. That is a legal requirement — I believe in all states.”

                If I was giving medical treatment, it might have been relevant to me. It’s also a legal requirement that people drive under the posted speed limit– I believe in all states. This is also immaterial as to whether third parties have any kind of legal obligation.

                “Facilitating this communication is just considered a decent thing to do.”
                I’m a single parent. I’d like $20 from you to help pay my phone bill.

                ” Or would you prefer two city cops to barge into your classroom unannounced — which is the alternative if the school can’t reach the parent.”

                Man I wish I lived somewhere where city cops would drive around trying to contact people because their children need medical attention. But I don’t, and never have.

          4. “And UMass is an Internet 2 site, which is a tad faster than OC3”

            Make up your damn mind. Is it so slow that people are getting faster connections via cellular service, or is it so fast it outpaces OC3?

          5. “reality is that cell phone hotspots ARE FASTER and if you have a scintilla of knowledge about computer networks, you’d understand how that is possible.”

            It is precisely because I *do* know how computer networks work, that I know that you do not.

      2. “1: You do know that you were blocking access to information from/to/about totalitarian states such as PRC, Myanmar, and DPRK”

        This statement is incorrect.

  18. This is an interesting proposal from someone who has “filtered” terms such as “slack-jaw” and “cop succor” (ostensibly for violation of “civility” standards) when serving on his blog’s Board of Censors . . . and banned a commenter entirely (identifying ‘low signal to noise ratio’ as the reason) for making fun of conservatives.

    Context: Conservative comments inviting liberals to take Zyklon showers; proposing that liberals be placed face-down in landfills; suggesting liberals are to be shot when opening front doors; and calling for liberal judges to be gassed are still available to perusal at this blog, and those commenters are still welcome to comment.

    I do not question the proprietor’s entitlement to engage in censorship — even viewpoint-driven, partisan, repeated censorship — at his blog. It’s his playground, so his rules. But some self-awareness would spare us the spectacle of climbing aboard the high horse to lecture others on freedom of expression.

    1. Maybe we will get lucky and they will ban you?

      1. It wouldn’t be the first time.

    2. “This is an interesting proposal from someone who has “filtered” terms such as “slack-jaw” and “cop succor” (ostensibly for violation of “civility” standards)”

      You’re still not getting it, Arthur. He doesn’t like you calling people niggers or cop succors, he has no objection to you quoting those terms.

      1. Who was that professor at Syracuse University quoting, in your judgment, TwelveInchPianist?

        1. Ummm — Farcebook?

    3. Kirkland, grow up.

      You aren’t censored.

      1. I was censored by Prof. Volokh during October 2010, when Artie Ray Lee Wayne Jim-Bob Kirkland, who made fun of conservatives using parody, was banned. The precise reason provided in writing for the ban, on October 6, 2010, was that Artie Ray’s comments were ‘mostly noise with no signal.’

        (Messages related to the Academy Awards, Arthur Kirkland of . . . And Justice For All, and Frank Galvin of The Verdict were removed from the Volokh Conspiracy in April 2011; Prof. Volokh indicated neither he nor the blog’s filters had censored them and suggested I contact the author of the relevant post to check whether the author had removed them. I continue to believe with confidence that Prof. Volokh did not censor those messages.)

        I was censored by Prof. Volokh during February and March 2014, when several comments using the term “cop succor” or “cop succors” (referring to persons who reflexively defended abusive policing, which offended my libertarian sensibilities) were removed. That the censorship was intentional — and not subject to appeal or discussion — was confirmed in writing on March 2, 2014.

        During April 2019, I was instructed by Prof. Volokh to stop using ‘slack-jawed bigots’ and similar ‘insults and epithets’ at the Volokh Conspiracy. I opined in response that this request to comply with Volokh Conspiracy ‘civility standards’ seemed odd in the context of exchanges that included evocations of liberals being tossed ‘face-down and lifeless into landfills’ or ‘lined up and shot.’ Prof. Volokh did not respond.

        I am confident Prof. Volokh is grateful for your uninformed, partisan sycophancy, Dr. Ed 2.

        I would welcome any correction or clarification Prof. Volokh might wish to offer with respect to my recounting of repeated viewpoint-driven censorship by the Volokh Conspiracy.

        I hope this information might inform those at Syracuse University who might be considering Prof. Volokh’s pointers on free expression.

        May the better ideas win. Of course, that’s easy for me to say . . . when not being censored.

  19. I think most of the “outrage” expressed over certain words in just theater designed to get a public response. Just this afternoon I was sitting at a traffic light and a gentleman who appeared to be African American came up next to me playing some rap music extremely loud. In the 45-60 we were at the light I counted at least 5 instances of the n——- word and many other profane expressions. He did not seemed phased by it.

    I imagine when the video is not rolling and nightly news isn’t covering it, the same people that seem to care a lot of about this issue stop caring so much.

    1. Just like in all other kinds of communication, the reaction to the words will vary depending on the source. I’m guessing you didn’t test your theory that people don’t actually care if people use “the N word” by yelling over to the African-American-appearing gentleman “Hey, n——-, mind turning that shit down?” to see if he’d let you use the word since he obviously isn’t bothered by the word itself.

      1. Thanks for the suggestion. I will give that a try next time I have the chance!

        1. don’t worry if the person gets out a firearm. They probably just want to show you that you share certain ideas regarding the second amendment.

          1. And thank God we have laws that forbid felons from carrying firearms. That stopped a felon from carrying one to a BLM protest and who knows what would have happened if he had threatened people with it. Someone might have gotten shot….

            (For those wondering, yes that was sarcasm. One of the guys Rittenhouse shot, most likely in self defense, had a pistol, was brandishing it, and was also a convicted felon who was banned from owning or carrying a firearm.)

            1. Gee, then I guess it’s a good thing he was arrested, charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, convicted by a jury of his peers, and then, and only then, punished for the crime he was committing.

              1. Yes, in your ideal world this would all have happened after he’d shot Rittenhouse dead, so he could have been punished for the murder, too.

                1. Rittenhouse showed a propensity to shoot first, so he’d probably be fine.

                  1. No — reportedly a handgun was fired first.

                    1. Reportedly it caused you some cognitive impairment.

            2. And may also have fired a round from it. (That will be easy enough for forensics to tell — if they want to know.)

              If this is true, how was Rittenhouse to know that the perp wasn’t just a lousy marksman who’d do better at closer range?

              1. He could have chosen to stay home, significantly decreasing his odds of being shot by anybody else.

      2. I’d actually say “Sir, would you mind turning that down — I find that racist word quite offensive.”

        1. Surely.

          1. Completely plausible.

  20. [5.]

  21. I take it that if it’s so damaging and unjustifiable for students to have to hear the word, it’s also damaging and unjustifiable for them to have to see the word.

    That, it seems to me, misunderstands the problem. And belittles it. And belittles offended students at the same time.

    I suggest the problem is not that some students are so fragile that they cannot live without special protections in world of open discourse. I suggest the problem is that students who are members of racial minorities believe, with good reason, that they are entitled to a place of equality on campus. And to secure that place of equality, and to assure administrators fully support their equal status, those students have made demands that specific words—words associated with assigning them inferior status—be made off limits on campus. The students have demanded also that faculty and administrators back that as policy, and enforce that. The demand, in essence, is that administrators show by policy their own earnest commitment to a place of equality for minority students on campus.

    Ostensibly principled objections to such demands unavoidably open real questions about whether objectors do support an equal place for minority students on campus. That is not a trivial objection, nor one which faculty and administrators should insist upon without reflecting why demands for equality have been linked by students to suppression of words with meanings premised upon the students’ inequality.

    Minority students are saying that principles of the larger society may protect people who disparage minorities, but those must not become alike the principles of a university enclave which owes them a better standard. Minority students are justifiably suspicious of academics who answer, “No, the rules society at large uses to demean you must be the rules educational institutions use also, so you can get used to it.”

    1. Let’s go this route, down your little rabbit hole of what amounts to ‘no really the request is in good faith.’

      My question would be then to ask them if they listen to any music which contains racial epithets. Because that would also be banned. And if they listen to music containing it then it isn’t the word that offends them and their request isn’t in good faith.

      I would suppose that there are those who do not listen to that kind of music whose request would be in good faith, but the exception does not prove the rule.

      1. My question would be then to ask them if they listen to any music which contains racial epithets. Because that would also be banned. And if they listen to music containing it then it isn’t the word that offends them and their request isn’t in good faith.

        I suppose that would apply to my comment if the music in question was:

        1. Used specifically to demean minority students.

        2. Being defended by academic leaders as a necessary part of the educational process.

        Otherwise, not so much.

        1. Stephen, your response suggests that you may believe that college faculty who quote the n-word during their teaching do so specifically to demean African American students. Do you?

          1. Can’t rule it out.

            1. True, but is that relevant? I mean, do you think it’s a good idea to proscribe speech on the basis that it can’t be ruled out that it was intended to demean?

              1. Depends on how much you believe the “I’m totally not racist” protestations of the people who’ve been saying various racist things.

    2. ” that they are entitled to a place of equality on campus.”

      Would that equality include the right to be insulted or offended on an equal basis with everyone else?

    3. In other words, they are entitled to fascist dictatorial powers….

      1. Leave your wet dreams out of it.

    4. “And to secure that place of equality, and to assure administrators fully support their equal status, those students have made demands that specific words—words associated with assigning them inferior status—be made off limits on campus.”

      Yes exactly. The university should be a haven and sweep racism under a rug while the students are in campus. In fact I would also suggest any mention of racism be banned on campus in order to keep from reminding minority students that there are people who don’t think they are equal.

      Along with all the racial epitaphs we need to ban these words to achieve a safe environment: racist, racism, white supremacists, disadvantaged, white privilege, etc.

    5. Clearly you haven’t been on a college campus since affirmative action began. The “minority” are the majority and whites are discriminated against in every instance.

      1. “Clearly you haven’t been on a college campus since affirmative action began. The “minority” are the majority and whites are discriminated against in every instance.”

        No, they’re not recruited as heavily to join the basketball team. Other than that, white folks is doing just fine on college campuses.

        1. Take your head out of the sand

          1. I’d tell you to take your head out of your ass, but I’m not sure it can survive exposure to air.

    6. “I take it that if it’s so damaging and unjustifiable for students to have to hear the word, it’s also damaging and unjustifiable for them to have to see the word.”

      They’re trying to use their first amendment right of association to not associate with people who are racist. Insisting that they should have to surrender that right just because you want to keep being racist with no penalty, shows that it’s you who wants to control other people.

      1. Nonsense.
        Forbidding speech and thought are te first steps toward a totalitarian society.
        No crusade for uniformity of thought is laudable. You are free to associate with whom you please. So are students of all stripes on campus. The right that they do not have is to drive others off campus by their shaming and bullying.

        1. The first amendment guarantees your right to say something without fearing the government will arrest you for it. It doesn’t guarantee you the right to say whatever you want without causing other people to form opinions about you based on what you chose to say.

          ” You are free to associate with whom you please. ”

          Doesn’t work that way. They get a choice in whether they want to associate with me (or you, or that jackass who thinks drawing swastikas on bathroom stalls is “edgy”.

          1. James Pollock: Funny you should mention swastikas — I totally agree that people shouldn’t use swastikas as means of expressing support for Nazism (though that’s constitutionally protected), or as a means of conveying threats of violence (that’s often not constitutionally protected). But should professors blur out swastikas in their history textbooks or history class Powerpoints or (with the right technology) in movies they show about World War II?

            1. Prof Volokh — an interesting aside on swastikas.
              https://www.nytimes.com/1990/01/14/us/massachusetts-town-votes-to-remove-indian-swastikas.html

              In the 1920s, when there was lots of money, the resort town built a fancy town hall with a fancy tile floor with swastikas to honor the local Indians. At some point they then carpet the floor.

              And in 1990 they want to restore the building and find the swastikas — which had nothing to do with Hitler, who was an anonymous German criminal (in prison) at the time.

              What would you have done?

            2. ” Funny you should mention swastikas — I totally agree that people shouldn’t use swastikas as means of expressing support for Nazism”

              It’s the writing them on other people’s walls that I find most objectionable.

              1. Well, if that’s it, then I agree — but then the swastika doesn’t take one very far, right?

                1. I suspect your italics tagging has gone astray here.

                  1. Whoops, thanks, fixed!

                    1. Now that I can see what you intended to write, It makes sense. What it doesn’t do, though, is suggests that anyone has any right to demand to associate with people. So if the other people at the university decide they don’t want anything to do with you because of the things you choose to write, say, or do… that’s just those people exercising their 1A right of association as they see fit, isn’t it?

                    2. … which is what I claimed in the first place.

            3. “But should professors blur out swastikas ”

              In1990, the videogame designers mostly had to.

    7. “Minority students are saying that principles of the larger society may protect people who disparage minorities, but those must not become alike the principles of a university enclave which owes them a better standard.”

      Oh no — they want the principles pf the enclave imposed on society as a whole….

      1. What they want is that people who use offensive words because of not knowing that they are offensive might learn and alter their behavior after learning that it is offensive and the ones who use offensive words in an attempt to be offensive can be readily identified. then the people who don’t want to associate with people who are intentionally offensive can adjust their association(s) if necessary.

  22. My option would be that anyone who needs such a filter should be kicked out of whatever school or business they are in and sent back to their parent’s basement.

    1. Have you expressed this opinion outside your parents’ basement?

  23. Some linguistics Bastiat will have to invent a new third category, the “seen unseen”.

  24. Such fnord wonderful technology fnord to be able to aufnordtomatically block objecfnordtionable words from documents!

  25. The app should be called “Winston” — tastes good, like a (filter) cigarette should.

  26. Didn’t Papa John’s get canceled for less than what Eugene did in this post? Which fascist prog is going to send in the cancel police? Sacastro? The Reverend KKKirkland? captcrisis?

    1. Context matters, Sam.

      Incredible you think I’m one of those who thinks it doesn’t.

    2. “Didn’t Papa John’s get canceled for less than what Eugene did in this post?”

      No, it’s still a national chain, now with Shaquille O’Neal as spokesman. Didn’t make the pizza any better, though.

      1. First they canceled Artie Ray Lee Wayne Jim-Bob Kirkland . . . then they whined about ‘cancel culture’ . . .

        1. Well, first they went after John Lennon, for noting that the Beatles were very popular, then they went after Jim Morrison, then they targeted “devil music” in general. Finally the Dixie Chicks were targeted by “cancel culture” for saying mean things about George W Bush. They didn’t decide they had a complaint about “cancel culture” until it started happening to their guys.

          1. First they went after “race music.”

            They prosecuted and persecuted Alan Freed, among others, for daring to play “race music” for white audiences.

            Bigots are no better today than they were then. One change: A half-century and more back, the racists mostly were Democrats. Today, bigots are the core of the Republican Party.

            1. No Kirkland, a lot of us attempt to “love thy neighbor” — even if he is a total schmuck.

              1. Just as Jesus told his followers to do and say.

              2. “Bigots are no better today than they were then.”

                “No Kirkland, a lot of us attempt to “love thy neighbor” — even if he is a total schmuck.”

                “Us” bigots?

                This might be one of my favorite Volokh Conspiracy moments, right up there with the Zywicke-Bank of America incident.

                1. Zywicki

                  Come back, Todd!

  27. Two thoughts:

    1)Does the 1st Am. allow a public university to require that its employees or students employ filtering software. If it does, what are the limits on the types of mandatory filtering allowed?

    2)Censorship is usually justified as avoiding offense to the viewer. Once the viewer has effective tools to prevent seeing whatever offends him, can he still try to justify preventing such content, given that he will no longer see it?

    1. Absaroka, should the standard in a public employer’s workplace be that white employees can refer to black employees using whatever epithets the whites prefer, so long as the blacks themselves never hear them?

      1. Should you be required to wear pants inside your house, even though no one can see you?

        1. Zoom says no.

    2. “1)Does the 1st Am. allow a public university to require that its employees or students employ filtering software. If it does, what are the limits on the types of mandatory filtering allowed?”

      Apparently, filtering software CAN be required in public libraries.

  28. In answer to the question in the title. – NO!!!!!!

    The many erudite answers above obscure the simple fact that it’s a censorious a limit on academic freedom.

    1. Agree!

    2. “The many erudite answers above obscure the simple fact that it’s a censorious a limit on academic freedom.”

      It’s a censorious limit if it’s imposed. Doesn’t have much to do with academic freedom, though.

  29. Any such plugin will have serious privacy issues, because it can read all of your e-mails.

    Besides, it is just plain stupid (and I suspect you know this and were just looking for some cheap clickbait). Those who want to can bypass it by using encryption, steganography or the like (much like prisoners do to avoid censors). Those who don’t bypass it will be getting the wrong message.

    Recall Hannah Holborn Gray: “Education should not be intended to make people comfortable, it is meant to make them think.”

    1. “Any such plugin will have serious privacy issues, because it can read all of your e-mails.”

      Gasp. I can read all of my emails. do I have serious privacy issues?

  30. A comment at large and not specifically directed to any contributor in particular. I hear the N word at least 20-30 times a week as well as every other possible demeaning epithet that could be hurled at anyone because of race, ancestry, faith and so forth. Nobody cries, gets injured, riots, loots or waives banners. In our case it’s just guys talking, the most ignorant of which has a masters degree. I am often referred to as the damn cracker, being from the South. My Irish friends from North of Maryland are Mick, Yankee, need not apply drunks. We even have a kike and a camel jockey, who is also occasionally referred to as sand ni…. And this is only in English, in Spanish when those who can use it do, the descriptive adjectives are innumerable. I’m also told that I speak the Devil’s language. My message is, GET THE FUCK OVER IT! I was told in second grade that words could never hurt me. And my teacher was correct. Anybody who thinks they will ever be able to practice law but flinches at the word nigger, should consider another career. Its like a med student that can’t stand the sight of blood.

  31. Where I to teach I trial skills class, the first assignment would be for each student to write down the 50 worst epithets they can imagine or are aware of. The following day each would have to stand before the rest of the class and read them out loud to them while making eye contact with those to which they might apply. That’s the way to mold a litigator. Fearless and unashamed.

    1. I wouldn’t do that today.
      Trust me, I wouldn’t….

      1. Because Ferpa? Or because some Dr. Ed will start showing porn videos in your class?

  32. Professor Volokh…You can put me down for #5.

    We must see the world as it is, not as we wish it to be.

  33. Not to mention that to program any such filter requires use of the word. If it was really banned, then the programmer could not make the filter. It goes up the ladder from there to the people who ordered the programmer to make the filter, and to the people who protest use of the word. They have to use the word too.

    How about words starting with “racis*” or “soci*” on the ban list?

    1. They’re having that problem in learning programs today: They’re desperate to find a way to make AI programs reproduce the Politically Correct outcomes without having to be told what they are, because they programmers and people writing the specifications for the programs aren’t allowed to acknowledge the Incorrect realities, and so can’t address why the programs do.

    2. Your second paragraph refutes your first paragraph. Was this intentional?

      1. Yeah sort of. I didn’t really expect programmers to abstain from writing filters because they are a contradiction. But Brett Bellmore popped that baloon too.

        1. The problem is that the programmers were hired to write programs that would identify patterns in the data. They did so successfully.

          The people who hired them had the reaction, “But, not those patterns!”.

          So, the programmers wanted explicit specs for what the program was supposed to do.

          But the people hiring them wanted something contradictory: They wanted a program that wouldn’t discriminate on the basis of race or sex, and wouldn’t produce an output THEY thought discriminated. But the only way to produce the output they wanted was to discriminate.

          So now they’re being directed to write software that discriminates in order to ‘not discriminate’.

          1. In other news, autocorrect often changes what you meant to say into something you didn’t mean to say.
            This is because computers are a tool of ultimate evil, as documented in the fine film “Time Bandits”, in which Ultimate Evil suggests he will win his contest with Good because he has an understanding… of digital watches.

  34. “I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.
    Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!'”
    “But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.
    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

  35. #5. What are they going to do, keep using the filter once they graduate into the real world? How’s that going to work out?

    There are always border cases. If you eliminate what offends you today, the border moves, and tomorrow something will offend you that you wouldn’t have noticed today. Conservation of offense! That’s why you don’t tear down statues, and don’t ban words: It has no natural stopping point.

    Rather, I would tell the students who ask to use this, “This class is for adults. There’s a middle school a few miles from here, would you like a referral?”

    1. “What are they going to do, keep using the filter once they graduate into the real world? How’s that going to work out?”

      Depends. Is this a software you pay for once and then you own a license, or is this a software that you subscribe to each year you want to use it? Either way, I assume the software does the exact same thing in school as it does in the real world.

  36. Madness.

    There are no words that anyone should be forbidden to say, if they’re said in a neutral context, such as quoting from something.

    1. There are some words that are known to be offensive to other people. Using those words intentionally shows the user to be willing to offend other people. Treating a person who has shown to be willing to offend other people as if they were a person who offends other people is peachy-keen fine. It’s also not wrong to treat someone who smells of ethyl mercaptan as if they smell of ethyl mercaptan is also not wrong.

      1. In other words, if someone goes out of their way to tell your that they’re a jerk, believe them.

        1. So, in your view; accurately quoting a Legal Case, in a Law Class is being a jerk? You come across as, an insufferable jerk and a bit controlling. Congratulations?

          1. Intentionally offering poorly summarized versions someone else’s comment tells people you are a jerk.

            I believe you.

        2. I’ve got to agree with Tempe – if the standard is “don’t be a jerk”, then you and the would-be censors have failed.

          1. Mr. Meese will be disappointed to hear that they’ve lost you.

      2. I find words disparaging The President to be offensive.
        So it’s OK for me to treat those using them as if they are persons who offend others?

        And as to someone who smells of ethyl mercaptan, the responsible thing to do is find out *why*, and quickly.
        Here’s why: https://www.cnn.com/us/live-news/farmington-maine-explosion/index.html

        NB: That’s not snow, that’s powdered debris….

        1. You smell like ethyl mercaptan. Why?

          1. There’s a propane leak in the basement, where my coat was stored.

            That building was taken off the face of the earth, and only one person died.

            Why? Everyone else was told to get out of there — quickly…

            1. Why couldn’t you have been the one who stayed?

        2. “I find words disparaging The President to be offensive.”

          Must have been hell hanging out with your friends during the Obama administration.

      3. I don’t agree. If you’re quoting from something in a neutral context, you’re using it intentionally, but you’re not trying to offend anyone.

        1. If you know the words you’re saying are offensive to someone, and you use them anyway (neutrally or not) you’re intentionally offending someone.

          1. Hey, no offense to the left-handers out there, but you’re totally sinister, you know?

  37. You are making a fundamental mistake that holds that the reason not to say these epiphets is the absurd excuse that they somehow traumatize students. That’s always been ridiculous.

    But what has happened is that (because psychologically a word still feels forbidden even if merely mentioned not used) is that not saying these epiphets explicitly out loud (not in writing yet though) has become a kind of social courtesy.

    There is no rational reason it is a courtesy anymore than there is for the handshake (merely historical causes) but refusing to abide by a courtesy by default conveys offense. It’s like adopting a policy of refusing to shake hands. If you have a good reason like Covid fine but otherwise you cause lots of little pained reactions “is he snubbing me” that are driven just by the question “why isn’t he doing the normal thing” not by deep facts about why the customary thing is correct.

    So none of your answers apply since they all (or at least opt 3) build in a theory about why it might be bad to mention the word that is just wrong.

    1. But it’s not a big deal either way but why inflict that moment of doubt and wondering “why does he feel the need to buck the social convention…does it mean something” without any benefit.

      There is no benefit because the trauma story was BS from the get go so they don’t need to be desensitized for court cases or anything like that.

      1. I think everything you say is true, but it doesn’t address the problem that occasionally an instructor may need to utter an offensive word in order to accurately portray the circumstances of a case. Perhaps apologizing for saying the word would satisfy the social courtesy?

        1. ” doesn’t address the problem that occasionally an instructor may need to utter an offensive word in order to accurately portray the circumstances of a case”

          If that’s true. If repeated use of a word causes it to lose the hateful connotation, then it will no longer be an epithet. For example, the word “Samaritan” notlonger has the the connotation it had when Jesus was preaching. To Jesus’ audience, thee was not such thing as a “Good” Samaritan.

  38. It seems to me that if someone is so fragile that mere exposure to a word is “harmful”, then it seems to me the person has an obligation to self-isolate.

    Find a profession where you can control your exposures. By the way, the law will not be it.

  39. It’s an excellent idea but the AI needs one more level of development. As it is, we’ll know something was deleted and our imaginations will conjure up the worst. It could be even more traumatizing than actually seeing it. The software needs to patch over or rewrite the whole sentence so we’re not aware it’s been edited.

    With faster digital signal processing chips, we might be only 5-10 years from being able to implement on-the-fly audio improvement of conversation, using headphones. Ordinary talking should be much safer, although if you’re a good lip reader you’ll need to look away, and least until the speed of digital image processing goggles gets a lot better.

    However, the real answer is Elon Musk’s brain interface chip. It can allow us to suppress comprehension of the words, or even awareness that they exist. 15-20 years. You heard it here first.

    1. Yeah, sure. Autocorrect is the answer.

  40. Just “no,” for pretty much every possible reason.

  41. (I am SO glad I was in college in the sixties.)

    The colleges can offer/require whatever they want, as long as prospective students are fully informed of the level of mind control the college intends to deploy.
    Then the students can decide where to spend their loan proceeds.

    1. “Then the students can decide where to spend their loan proceeds.”

      If they can get into more than one school.

      1. Are you serious? It’s a buyer’s market right now.

        1. With the schools all shut down?

  42. “I sentence you to be ____d by the n___ until ___d, and may G__ have mercy on your s___.”

    (edited due to sensitivity toward the death penalty, and for Church/state concerns)

  43. Do the people who object to the use of “superstition” to refer to . . . superstition, yet get lathered about people who don’t want to hear vile racial slurs, understand that they make no sense?

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