Free Speech

Professor Put on Administrative Leave for Accurately Quoting Leading Campus Speech Code Case

The professor, the chair of the Central Michigan University journalism department, was teaching a media law class, and quoted a case that discussed the use of the word "nigger" at public universities.


Dambrot v. Central Michigan University (6th Cir. 1995) is one of the leading cases on the First Amendment and campus speech codes. It struck down a Central Michigan University speech code that banned

any intentional, unintentional, physical, verbal, or nonverbal behavior that subjects an individual to an intimidating, hostile or offensive educational, employment or living environment by … (c) demeaning or slurring individuals through … written literature because of their racial or ethnic affiliation; or (d) using symbols, [epithets] or slogans that infer negative connotations about the individual's racial or ethnic affiliation.

But it also upheld the firing of a basketball coach who had used the word "nigger" in a motivational speech:

According to Dambrot's testimony, Dambrot told the players they hadn't been playing very hard and then said "Do you mind if I use the N word?" After one or some of the players apparently indicated it was okay, Dambrot said "you know we need to have more niggers on our team…. Coach McDowell is a nigger, … Sand[er] Scott who's an academic All-American, a Caucasian, I said Sand[er] Scott is a nigger. He's hard nose, [sic] he's tough, et cetera." He testified he intended to use the term in a "positive and reinforcing" manner. The players often referred to each other using the N-word during games and around campus and in the locker room. Dambrot stated he used the word in the same manner in which the players used the term amongst themselves, "to connote a person who is fearless, mentally strong and tough."

The court concluded that the speech wasn't on a matter of "public concern," and thus not protected against the government as employer, because it wasn't tied to any broader matters, wasn't part of classroom teaching, and "served to advance no academic message":

Focusing on the "content, form and context" of Dambrot's use of the word "nigger," this Court can find nothing "relating to any matter of political, social or other concern to the community." Dambrot's locker room speech imparted no socially or politically relevant message to his players. The point of his speech was not related to his use of the N-word but to his desire to have his players play harder. Like the use of profanity in Martin, Dambrot's use of the N-word was intended to be motivational and was incidental to the message conveyed….

Unlike the classroom teacher whose primary role is to guide students through the discussion and debate of various viewpoints in a particular discipline, Dambrot's role as a coach is to train his student athletes how to win on the court. The plays and strategies are seldom up for debate. Execution of the coach's will is paramount. Moreover, the coach controls who plays and for how long, placing a disincentive on any debate with the coach's ideas which might have taken place….

Dambrot's speech served to advance no academic message and is solely a method by which he attempted to motivate — or humiliate — his players ….

A later case from the same court, Hardy v. Jefferson Community College (6th Cir. 2001), specifically held that Dambrot was inapplicable when the "in-class use of the objectionable word was germane to the subject matter of [a] lecture" by a classroom teacher. In any event, Dambrot is an important precedent, and of course especially interesting at Central Michigan University, where the decision arose.

And Dambrot mentioned the word "nigger" 19 times (as well as "N-word" 10 times, plus "N word" once in a quote). Though using the word to motivate players, the court concluded, was punishable, mentioning the word in describing the facts struck the judge as perfectly proper.

And I doubt that this was because the author, Judge Damon Keith, was unaware how offensive the word could be; as a black man born in 1922 Detroit, I would guess that he had been called it on many occasions. Rather, I assume that he (1) thought it important to accurately quote the facts, even when the facts include offensive words, and (2) drew a sharp distinction between wrongfully using a word as an insult (or perhaps even as a compliment, as in Dambrot itself), and properly mentioning it as a fact. (Indeed, both these points are largely uncontroversial in universities and among judges for most other insults; and they're broadly accepted by judges as to "nigger" as well as for any other word.)

Unsurprisingly, then, Prof. Tim Boudreau, chair of Central Michigan University's Journalism Department, followed the same pattern: presumably thinking it important to accurately quote the facts, and distinguishing in his mind use from mention, he likewise quoted the word twice while quoting the facts of Dambrot. In the words of Central Michigan Life (Courtney Pedersen),

In the nine-second video, Boudreau can be heard saying, "… so he said… 'I don't want you to be like n—–s in the classroom, but I want you to play like n—–s on the court'" during what appears to be a discussion about the 1993 lawsuit between CMU and fired men's basketball coach Keith Dambrot. The words Boudreau was recorded saying during the lecture were the comments made by Dambrot to the team, not Boudreau's own words. [The expurgation, of course, was supplied by the newspaper I quote, and not by me. -EV]

The result:

On June 22, alumna Skyler Mills, of Miami, Florida, posted a video on Instagram of Boudreau lecturing in his media law class. Mills' mother, Lisa, commented that the video was taken during her daughter's junior year. Mills graduated in 2019.

"Since we are exposing racists, let me introduce you to @cmuniversity professor Tim Boudreau who freely uses the n-word in class whether it be providing examples or quoting an individual," Mills, an advertising major,  captioned the post. "I know I wasn't the only student of color who felt humiliated and uncomfortable by his racially insensitive statements."

The university's official Instagram account responded to Mills on June 24: "Skyler, thank you for bringing this to our attention. We are sorry this happened. At CMU we are committed to building an inclusive environment where every person feels welcome and valued. Racist conduct by any member of our university community violates that commitment as well as our core values. We have forwarded your message to the appropriate campus offices so they can be properly reviewed. Please know that CMU takes these types of reports seriously and investigates them to the fullest extent possible."

On June 26, faculty received word that Boudreau had been placed on paid administrative leave….

So the word that Judge Keith mentioned 19 times in his opinion, and that has appeared in over 10,000 other opinions (written by judges of all races and all political stripes, of course) and over 10,000 briefs (and likely much more than that)—much more often than "N-word" or "n—r"—now can't be said at Central Michigan University by a professor teaching a media law class about that very opinion. Very much the wrong reaction by the University, it seems to me.

(Disclosure: For a similar incident involving me, though one in which the university did not take any formal administrative action, see here.)

NEXT: Today in Supreme Court History: July 10, 1832

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  1. What is with this burning need for white people to say this word in 2020? Wouldn’t the world be an obviously better place if this word ceased to be said at all by white people?

    1. The thing about 1984 (the book, not the year) that really scared me was not the surveillance, but newspeak.

      1. Oh, good grief, Walter Sobchak. Making an awful epithet that highly offends a big chunk of your fellow Americans and is inextricably tied to the greatest moral failing of our nation increasingly socially unacceptable =/= the initiation of one party, torture using totalitarianism.

        1. Did they choose to take a law course at a law school? Did they think the law was all confectionary sugar (oops, white privilege, sorry, cane sugar, my bad) and they could isolate themselves from filthy reality?

          I know. Why don’t we have separate law courses for snowflakes, who can learn about snowflakes (of coal-polluted color) and not have to ever hear or see anything yucky ever again? Maybe they can go into contract law? I bet contract law never hears yucky words.

          But by all means, keep the snowflakes out of criminal law, where they might have to deal with actual criminals, you know — murderers, rapists, thugs, burglars. Wouldn’t want to shock their poor little brains with al that yucky real-life nastiness.

          1. It’s a law course where the professor is reading from the court’s ruling. And this usage stands for the evil of slavery and Jim Crow and the terrible mistreatment of black people.
            So we have an academic environment where it’s used versus the use of the word by evil people intended to harm others.
            One of these is not like the other. Does context and intent not mean anything anymore?

          2. Look, Mr. Sobchak, not every instance of offense and outrage is because the offended and outraged is a ‘snowflake.’ Likely you, yourself, and your loved ones, can be offended or outraged by things too! Now, if we accept that some behavior and words can be offensive and outrageous, I’d say the N word has a history and context that would make it a frontrunner for that. Now, given that, one could ask, must it be said here? What is the harm of substituting ‘the N word’ or ‘a racial slur/epithet’ for saying the word? An affront to ‘historical accuracy?’ That’s a pretty abstract value and one that isn’t much violated (since the substitutes I offered say the same thing). For that we need to perpetuate this insulting and offensive word?

            1. For starters, sports management folk aren’t going to be confronting polite people using euphemisms.

              1. I’m talking about the professors use, but I also imagine quite a few successful sports management folk get by without tossing the N word around…

                1. I have said before, if I were a law professor I would do everything I could to avoid this word. I really abhor it. The only public situations I can imagine uttering it are if I needed to quote or ask someone about it in a court case, and if I was reporting or testifying about what someone actually said in some sort of legal matter.


                  It is a legitimate pedagogical choice to say the word. Saying “n-word” sanitizes the shock of these cases and why the free speech issues are so difficult. And it is a legitimate exercise of academic freedom to say the word.

                  1. People have the right to do all kinds of things they morally should not. You yourself admit you would strive to avoid saying the word. I think that’s because you see how offensive and awful it is. So the question then is, is that outweighed by a need to be ‘factually accurate’ in a way that could be substantially established with a less offensive euphemism?

                    1. “People have the right to do all kinds of things they morally should not.”

                      Indeed. For example, people can demand that a law prof who quotes decisions verbatim should be disciplined. Morally, they shouldn’t do that, but they can.

                    2. ” For example, people can demand that a law prof who quotes decisions verbatim should be disciplined. Morally, they shouldn’t do that, but they can.”

                      But law schools don’t have the right to actually discipline them, to be clear.

            2. “Look, Mr. Sobchak, not every instance of offense and outrage is because the offended and outraged is a ‘snowflake.’ ”

              No, pretty much, it is snowflakes every time. Non-snowflakes suck it up and move on, they don’t try to destroy somebody over using a world they don’t like.

              1. Is Donald Trump, and millions of his followers, ‘snowflakes?’ Maybe ask Colin Kaerpernick?

                1. Well, yes, of course they are.

                  1. When everyone is a ‘snowflake’ the term loses any charge. It just refers to ‘most human beings.’

                2. Their reaction was to quit spending money on the NFL. Do you think anyone here would care if the above party were to quit spending money on the law school?

            3. Look, Mr. Sobchak, not every instance of offense and outrage is because the offended and outraged is a ‘snowflake.’

              That’s obviously true. It’s also obviously true that some instances are because the offended and outraged are snowflakes. People who complain not about the use of the word, but about the mention of the word in contexts where it is material, are in the latter category.

            4. Reported, reported, reported.

        2. Your offensive comment has neen reported. Mean sporited and hurtful.

    2. By all means, leave us never utter that …. uhh, some …. I dunno, had it on the tip of my tongue …. well, never mind, there’s something we should never say again … even when literally quoting a legal decision which is literally quoting evidence and testimony.

      Shall court reporters also not write down this word?

      How about programs which detect dirty words in posts, or literature, or scour the net for things to hate? If they don’t have the word, how can it be detected?

      Go buzz off.

      1. Just enjoy the point that our society still has right-wing blogs that are free to use severe racial slurs repeatedly and free to censor people for criticizing or making fun of conservatives (by using terms such as “sl@ck-j@w,” for example).

    3. “Wouldn’t the world be an obviously better place if this word ceased to be said at all by white people?

      1: So it’s acceptable for non-White people to nonchalantly use it?!?

      2: “Chattel Slavery” is such a terrible word, let’s instead call it “poorly paid workers.” And we can Newspeak all of our tragic history of racism.

      1. Yes, the words ‘chattel slavery’ the word we’re discussing. I know so many black persons who had the words ‘chattel slavery’ hurled at them.

        1. Let’s ban the word “Black” while we are at it.

          BTW, the APA says it’s racist not to capitalize it. Are you racist?
          See where this foolishness goes to?!?

          1. Doubling down is not much of a response.

    4. ” What is with this burning need for white people to say this word in 2020? ”

      Not all white people. Not most white people. Not nearly.

      Mostly, just a subset of the clingers . . . whose ranks range from tone-deaf, disaffected culture war casualties (‘the modern mainstream won’t tell me what to do’) to strident bigots.

    5. Sorry, you actually think white people are going around using that word? They get up with some emotional need to use it? Why do white people not get to use it – in any context – and other races do? Or what?
      Here we clearly have an academic setting with adults. It’s used twice. And this is the result?

      1. Here we also have a non-academic setting in which it was used eight times.

        1. But that’s not the topic of the discussion or the post. It’s about a law professor put on leave for quoting a court ruling.
          Does context and intent mean anything at all anymore?

          1. I think context supports my position, actually, as I’ve explained. The awfulness of the word is appreciated with context. As for intent, I certainly think it matters, but as I’ve argued I’m not sure it does the work you’re thinking it does.

            1. We – and you – know nothing about this professor other than this – is he a great teacher? a good person? do we care or not? – but because he used the word twice – quoting a court ruling – he’s now a racist who is compared to those who DID use the word in an evil manner?
              And sorry no, your context is not in any way similar to the context in which the word was used. Your argument is that word “X” was used by evil people for evil reasons and therefore if the word is used in ANY other context by any other white people (what about non-whites?) it carries with it those evil uses, that evil context.
              The word is awful for how it was used and is used. In this case neither context applies.
              Good grief, we’re just acting cruel to people now. It’s out of hand. It’s as if we’re seeking revenge on people today for what people did yesterday. And an entirely different set of people.

              1. I certainly think this professor’s totality of the circumstances should be taken into account and from what I know I wouldn’t call him a racist.

                I just think he shouldn’t have said the word and should be so advised.

                And yes, I think when a word is used for centuries to and with efforts to harm oppressed people the word *itself* can be harmful, insulting and offensive. Why not use a substitute word that is not? ‘Historical accuracy’ must be achieved, though the heavens fall, so to speak?

                As for cruel, have you considered it might be cruel for the black students to hear this word shouted in their class?

                Take a less charged example. Let’s say you are driving your grandmother somewhere, and in a traffic altercation someone yells ‘Fuck you!’ to you. Your grandmother says ‘what did he say?’ Must you reply ‘he said ‘Fuck you, grandma’ even if you know hearing the term will upset her? Couldn’t you say ‘he said something offensive?’ Must ‘historical accuracy’ be achieved at the expense of your grandmother? Well, I think the N word re black persons is rightly far more upsetting…

                1. “Must you reply …”

                  Of course not. You might choose to quote it accurately, or to use a euphemism. Society, however, should not be trying to coerce people into choosing one way or the other of speaking to their grandmother.

                  Similarly, a prof should be able to choose how accurately they wish to quote court decisions. They shouldn’t be disciplined for doing so.

                  You don’t have to like the choice they make, but you should have enough basic tolerance of your fellow human beings to not try to impose your preferences onto others.

                  1. That’s silly. If you were in a restaurant with your grandmother and I were there yelling ‘fuck, fuck, fuck’ you’d want me to stop, I imagine. Having social disapproval of boorish and offensive behavior is not 1984 or something, it’s how basic society works all the time.

                    1. You aren’t grasping what is a not a particularly subtle distinction.

                      There are a lot of things I might want you to do or not do. For example, I might not like socks with sandals, flag themed clothing, facial tattoos, or opera. Language-wise, I might have a horror for dangling participles.

                      There is a much smaller set of things that I think people ought to be fired or jailed for, and accurately quoting court decisions is not remotely in that smaller set.

                      In general, my model of how people should treat each other is based on the golden rule – treat others the way you want to be treated. From that it follows that if I want to fire a prof for accurately quoting cases, then I accept that I could be fired for doing something the prof doesn’t like, like wearing a tank top perhaps.

                      You can’t expect people to accept a regime where you get to impose your arbitrary preferences on them, but they don’t get to impose their arbitrary preferences on you.

                      You are perfectly free to not like the prof, for any reasons you like. Getting him fired is a different thing altogether.

                      (as an off topic aside, my grannies were made of sterner stuff than you imagine. They buried their young children in the pre-vaccine era, they struggled to feed their surviving kids in the depression, and they sent their sons off to war. One of them didn’t get indoor plumbing until the 70’s – sharecropping wasn’t a fun existence. Hearing someone say fuck wasn’t going to faze them a bit … they were very much of the ‘sticks and stones…’ generation. I think you have to live in the very pampered recent times to get worked up over mere words. )

                    2. You’ve got to be kidding, we almost undoubtedly have more freedom of expression now than in your grandmother’s day (just look at the case law regarding this).

                      And what’s this talk of ‘arbitrary preferences?’ I’m talking about social norms, and hard fought ones at that, regarding how racial epithets shouldn’t be a part of our daily lives. This is how civilization works: some behaviors (including some speech) is considered awful and people who insist on using it are shown the door of the church, business, military barracks, or neighbor’s house when they use it.

                    3. If I were in a university classroom with my grandmother, and you were there teaching your class in which you talked about Cohen wearing his “Fuck the Draft” jacket, I don’t see what basis I’d have for asking you to stop. That strikes me as much more analogous to the professor here quoting Judge Keith’s opinion in Dambrot in a university classroom, than your hypothetical of someone yelling “fuck, fuck, fuck” in a restaurant.

                    4. “And what’s this talk of ‘arbitrary preferences?’ I’m talking about social norms,”

                      Eggg-zactly. You are trying to impose your arbitrary preferences as social norms.

                      That’s fine. as long as you are willing to accept other peoples random arbitrary norms as ‘social norms’. Which results in acceptable behavior as being the intersection of an infinite number of sets, i.e. the null set.

                    5. ” If I were in a university classroom with my grandmother, and you were there teaching your class in which you talked about Cohen wearing his “Fuck the Draft” jacket, I don’t see what basis I’d have for asking you to stop. ”

                      And yet you censored the term “c@p succ@r” — repeatedly — at this blog.

                      And banned someone for making fun of conservatives at this blog.

                      And warned against use of terms such as “sl@ck-j@w” at this blog.

                      The life of a “free speech champion” seems complicated.

            2. To what word are you referring?

    6. “obviously better place if this word ceased to be said at all by people”

      Fixed it for you.

      Blacks should not use it either. You don’t see Jews running around using “kike” regularly do you?

      Use by blacks isn’t “reclaiming” or such nonsense, it just shows ignorance.

      1. The difference between you and me is you feel entitled to tell black persons how to deal with this word and I do not.

        1. Congrats, do you want a ribbon or a cookie?

          1. I’m not looking for a ‘cookie,’ just trying to be a decent person.

            1. You are doing a terrible job of it.

              1. By trying to avoid the use of an epithet my black friends say is awful? Hmm, what’s your approach?

                1. You are patronizing them.

                  Oh noes, I can’t suggest that casual use (including many rap songs] by even blacks is bad. That would mean I’m ‘entitled”.

                  1. It would mean you’re pontificating on something that doesn’t have much valence for you while it does have tremendous valence for others (and its those you’re telling what’s right here).

        2. Then let’s carry on the trend and disallow blacks from saying “cracker” or “honky” going forward. Since they are not white they are not entitled to tell whites how to deal with those words

    7. I never use the word, and neither does anyone I know, and we all avoid blacks whenever possible because we know they’re the sworn enemies of civilized living. Avoid the Groid!

    8. Avoid the Groid!

    9. Look up the ‘use-mention’ distinction.

      There are certain things that are worth quoting even when it makes us uncomfortable. Sometimes because it removes ambiguity (the law), and sometimes because of the message (King’s letter from Birmingham Jail).

      I mean, if you’re talking about the law, and you’re discussing a case that involves the ‘n-word’, did the people say “n-word”, or did they say what’s being elided? That’s potentially an important difference. We need to know what was actually said.

      1. I specifically addressed that earlier.

    10. Yeah, you’re right. Moral panics are sensible and wise. Why didn’t everyone see it before?

      1. Is every time anyone is outraged a ‘moral panic’ to you, or only when you, yourself, don’t find the thing in question to be very outrageous?

        1. A moral panic is a feeling of fear spread among many people that some evil threatens the well-being of society. It is “the process of arousing social concern over an issue – usually the work of moral entrepreneurs and the mass media”.
          — from the Wikipedia page on moral panic

          Is there some way the concern with the word is practical? Did the word hide in the hills and attack a sleeping village in the dead of night? Did a kid hear the word and go blind? Was it spoken in a fertile field and the crops withered and died?

          It’s not a moral panic because … ?

    11. Are people only allowed to say things if there’s a “burning need” to do so? Because that would eliminate a lot of words.

    12. Well you might ask why might it need to be said by anybody?

      But it evidently must be said extensively, gratuitously, copiously, with at least dozens of meanings by Blacks.

      I thoroughly condemn anyone using that word as an insult or to belittle or degrade anyone and of course I avoid it myself. But to say a significant portion of our society can use the word freely, casually, and ubiquitously in conversation and in media in lyrics, literature, and dialog, yet that same word will end the career and socially disgrace anyone else who uses the word for any purpose isn’t a proposition I can accept.

      1. “But to say a significant portion of our society can use the word freely, casually, and ubiquitously in conversation and in media in lyrics, literature, and dialog, yet that same word will end the career and socially disgrace anyone else who uses the word for any purpose isn’t a proposition I can accept.”

        It’s almost like different people are differently situated regarding that word, as if it was used as an inextricable part of dehumanizing a group of people to justify awful treatment for most of our history while it wasn’t for another group.

    13. Nigger.

      The burning need to piss you off.

      1. OMG, you’re so *edgy!*

      2. RtM,

        You may want to familiarize yourself with Popehat’s Law of Goats.

        Spoiler alert: you’re an asshole.

      3. If you are trying to score an invitation to become a Conspirator, Rufus , , , you probably picked a good strategy.

        If you wish to spend the rest of your life having progress shoved down your throat by better people . . , your wish will continue to be granted.

      4. Looks like I upset the right people.

        Don’t forget your masks kiddies.

        1. The troll two-step:

          1. Fuck a goat.
          2. Declare victory when someone points out you’re fucking a goat.

          Congratulations, goatfucker.

    14. When you and others with your same attitude start trying to shut down black rappers and other black Americans for routinely using the exact same word then I’ll take seriously your claims that the word itself is, regardless of context or intent of the speaker, so inherently offensive that it’s use needs to stop. Until then, not so much.

    15. ceased to be said at all by white people

      So it’s okay for Asians to use the term?

      Is it okay for a Black law professor to use the word when quoting a court case but a White law professor should substitute some other term?

      In an online textual resource which quotes a court case, brief, transcript, or a passage from Huckleberry Finn, under what conditions is it okay to use the word “nigger” and when should it be replaced with N-word (preceded by a warning that the portions in italics has been edited of course)?

      Can a White person forward something written by a Black law professor who (apparently acceptably) used the word “Nigger” in a quote or must they modify the PDF before forwarding it?

      How would you suggest the dictionary define “N-word”? Must they hire a Black person to write the definition so the definition can be correct? Must they insure that only Black press operators run the pages containing the definition?

      I’ll be much more interested in getting my panties in a bunch about the use of the word when correctly quoting another individual when all rap music using the term and performed or written by Blacks (or Asians or Whites) is “cancelled” and any Black who uses the word in a rap music is shunned and fired from their entertainment contracts.

      I think some people being a bit too niggardly with their thought processes when analyzing this issue.

    16. What a flagrantly racist comment. If a word is “bad”, then it is bad regardless of who says it.

      At the same time, what a flagrantly clueless comment. How, precisely, do you think a professor should teach the law without quoting from actual cases that are precisely relevant to the topic? I think the world would be an obviously better place if would-be censors like you were soundly shouted down as the bigots you are.

    17. Reading out loud is white privilege.

  2. “using a word as an insult (or perhaps even as a compliment, as in Dambrot itself), and properly mentioning it as a fact. ”

    Does this distinction necessarily do the work Professor Volokh thinks it does? Let’s say an out of wedlock child is regularly teased and beat up by other kids and his parent, and when it happens he’s called a ‘bastard’ regularly. He grows to cringe at the very word. When a professor teaches about the old law of ‘bastardy’ does he cringe any less with it being in a classroom setting? If the professor knew how uncomfortable this made him, what is the professor out to substitute the words ‘out of wedlock?’ Is ‘being factually accurate’ worth emotionally harming the student in this situation?

    1. ” Is ‘being factually accurate’ worth emotionally harming the student in this situation?”

      Let’s ban any discussion of “slavery.”

      1. I’m curious, do you see no distinction between the word ‘sex’ and ‘fuck?’ I mean, you must be fun at family gatherings.

        1. What do you think lets blacks culturally appropriate that famous Anglo Saxon word? No no, this cultural appropriation farago works both ways. If you want to forbid whites from using black insults, then you have to also want to forbid blacks from using white insults.

          1. You’re coming off pretty obtuse to context here. There’s kind of an ugly history around the N word that kind of particularly involves black people.

            1. You’re coming off pretty obtuse to context here.

              The problem is that context only matters to you if and when it’s convenient to your argument, and is utterly irrelevant when it isn’t convenient.

            2. re: “You’re coming off pretty obtuse to context”

              Pot, meet Kettle. Your entire train of objection to the article above is completely oblivious to context.

          2. You’re right…. 🙂

            1. Á àß äẞç ãþÇđ âÞ¢Đæ ǎB€Ðëf ảhf is

    2. “out of wedlock child is regularly teased and beat up by other kids and his parent,”

      Are you a time traveler from the 1930s or 1950s?

      40% of all US births are out of wedlock now, over half among Hispanics and nearly 3/4 among blacks.

      No one is getting beat up over it. Its culturally cool.

      1. Analogies, how do they work?

        1. Analogies, how do they work?

          In your case, quite poorly.

    3. That example doesn’t work. Every year sexual assault victims take criminal law courses where rape is discussed and sometimes even debated. It sucks. It is a trigger, no doubt. But it is also an important part of a comprehensive legal education.

      You are going to hear professors talk about uncomfortable subjects in college. That’s part of the deal.

      1. Some triggers must be discussed=all triggers must?

        1. I am going to catch crap for this, but hearing the n-word quoted in the facts of a court case is really nothing. Most of the outrage here is performative. I am not saying nobody gets upset, but this is NOTHING like being a rape victim and hearing a long class discussion in graphic terms about what does and doesn’t constitute criminal sexual assault.

          As Johnnie Cochran said in the OJ trial, the notion that hearing a reference to the n-word causes blacks to lose it is itself a racist trope. It’s not pleasant, but as Cochran said, blacks deal with this all their lives.

          1. White guy knows how blacks deal with the N word in quotes!

            1. 1. Johnnie Cochran was one of the greatest black lawyers in history. Do you think he didn’t know?

              2. If your position is that college students never overstate their level of outrage things, you are naive.

              3. Instead of engaging in cheap, snarky, contentless quips, you should consider making an actual response.

              1. I don’t think Johnnie Cochran speaks for all black persons in all situations of hearing that word, no.

                1. I’m actually starting to think that “Queen Amalthea” is a Sarcast0 sockpuppet, the disingenuous argumentation styles are so similar.

              2. Johnnie Cochran was one of the greatest black lawyers in history.

                What in the world gave you the idea he was more than a marginally competent lawyer? That he won one trial with 9 jurors who took their life’s-best chance to strike back at white society?But anyway, it’s like saying “Vijay Singh is one of the greatest Fijian golfers in history,” Who are the others? I mean, you don’t know a single person who’s ever hired a black lawyer for a business, construction, or insurance dispute, do you?

        2. Know what rhymes with ‘trigger’?

      2. ” You are going to hear professors talk about uncomfortable subjects in college. ”

        That depends on the college. Some schools prohibit uncomfortable statements, such as ‘evolution is a sound theory,’ ‘Earth is more than a few thousand years old,’ or ‘superstitious dogma should not overcome science and history.’

        1. This is one of the few circumstances in which it is good to be a conservative in modern America, Rufus — the Volokh Conspiracy’s Board of Censors will not enforce is ostensible civility standards against you.

          I, however, refrain from responding rather than risk another banishment.

        2. And I would never pay to have my children educated at such a university. What I also would never do is demand that they be shutdown, or the instructors fired, or….

          1. I do not believe conservative-controlled campuses should be shut down or their instructors fired.

            Poorly educated bigots and superstitious clingers have rights, too. Including the right to operate and attend fourth-tier, nonsense-teaching, censorious yahoo factories catering to right-wingers.

      3. Well, recall Queen Amalthea’s earlier comment:

        Let’s say an out of wedlock child is regularly teased and beat up by other kids and his parent, and when it happens he’s called a ‘bastard’ regularly. He grows to cringe at the very word. When a professor teaches about the old law of ‘bastardy’ does he cringe any less with it being in a classroom setting? If the professor knew how uncomfortable this made him, what is the professor out to substitute the words ‘out of wedlock?’ Is ‘being factually accurate’ worth emotionally harming the student in this situation?

        Under this logic, I assume that, if a student insists, we should stop referring to “rape” (even when quoting court cases or statutes that so say) and instead say something else — “sexual attack”? “the r-crime”? Cf. Harvard law Prof. Jeannie Suk, who reports that “One teacher I know was recently asked by a student not to use the word ‘violate’ in class — as in ‘Does this conduct violate the law?’ — because the word was triggering.”

        1. Professor Volokh, surely you know the difference between an epithet and a non-epithet (even if it describes something awful)?

          1. I mean, you should know this if at all re the fighting words case (which is still precedent iirc). Saying ‘you are a representative of an oppressive regime’ is not the same as ‘you’re a goddamed fascist.’

            1. Chaplinsky is very narrow. Is your contention that quoting a court case will start a fight in the classroom?

            2. Wouldn’t the question be whether saying “Chaplinsky was prosecuted for saying, ‘You are a God damned racketeer,’ and ‘a damned Fascist'” is the same as actually saying to someone’s face, as a direct personal insult, “you’re a god damned racketeer and a damned fascist”? The answer under fighting words law is “no”; and while most professors teaching Chaplinsky, Cohen, and Gooding v. Wilson wouldn’t seriously call a student a damned fascist (even if the disapprove of the student’s politics), they would have little hesitation in quoting the facts of Chaplinsky.

          2. I know the distinction between epithet and a non-epithet — but I don’t quite see how it fits with the logic of your argument.

            Your point is that people should stop quoting “bastardy” (or, presumably, “God hates Fags” when discussing Snyder v. Phelps, or “kike” when discussing the Lenio group libel case, etc.) when some students say that they “cringe at the very word,” are “made” “uncomfortable” by it, and are “emotionally harm[ed]” by it. Why would epithets be unique in causing cringing, discomfort, and emotional harm? Why wouldn’t the word “rape” (or “child molesting” or “incest” or “lynching” or perhaps even “KKK” or “Nazi”) cause at least as much cringing, discomfort, and emotional harm as epithets among people who may have themselves been raped, or may reasonably fear rape? (Again, as Prof. Suk’s article reports, some people do seem to feel “triggered” by mention of sex-crime-related words, or by discussion of sex crimes.)

            1. Do you think telling your grandmother ‘X and Y had sex’ would be equally upsetting to her as saying ‘X fucked Y?’

          3. Professor Volokh, surely you know the difference between an epithet and a non-epithet (even if it describes something awful)?

            The principle being argued is restricting use of a word based on how offensive/upsetting it is for some individuals to so much as hear it being spoken. Now you’re just tap-dancing. You sound more and more like Sarcastr0 with every ridiculous post you make.

    4. “Does this distinction necessarily do the work Professor Volokh thinks it does?”


    5. Ok, let’s say the kid wore glasses and was called “four eyes” Does he have the same claim in math or anatomy class to not have to hear the words four or eyes?

      How about nerd, geek, or brain? Do we have to stop saying any word that someone might have used once upon time to insult another person?

    6. Being factually accurate in certain subjects, including the law, is a paramount value. I’m surprised this even needs to be said.

      1. When given the chance to choose between being right and being kind, choose kind.

        1. When given the choice between being honest and being a disingenuous fool, you clearly opt for the latter every time.

    7. I always wonder about people who pose the question, “Should we do X in Y situation?”, get the answer “No,” and then say, “Oh yeah? What about analogous situation Y’? Should we do X in that situation?”

      You were already told people’s answer. Why do you think said answer would be different in your hypothetical, given how closely it tracks the original?

  3. While I have the ultimate respect for the First Amendment (and indeed have stated on this blog many times I think it’s our nation’s greatest asset), and a healthy disdain for snowflakes of all types, I think Prof. Volokh is missing the point here – especially since he is a university professor.

    Which is one should expect a university to teach things (like 1A), and not have 1A shoved down student’s throats which is exactly what the CMU professor is doing.

    Universities offer great opportunities for young adults to learn new ideas – which are sometimes directly in opposition of their current thoughts – and students should have the time to discuss, digest, and then re-assess their thinking.

    The CMU professor instead basically said this is how the First Amendment works and tough if you don’t like it.

    Not a good teaching strategy.

    (Note: I’m just going off the attached report and obviously there could be more info about how the professor managed his class.)

    1. Shoved down their throats?

      Good grief. Ears, maybe. Pulled from, maybe.

      Try Biology 101 next time you go to school.

    2. It’s a law course, if things have reached the point where you can’t read a court ruling in a law course, it’s time to shut the universities down, salt the earth where they stood, and maybe tattoo the people running them so everybody is warned not to touch them and maybe be infected with the contagious idiocy.

      1. You do not seem to object to schools whose strenuous censorship flatters conservatives and superstition.

        I ascribe this to your partisanship and old-timey bigotry.

        Find that birth certificate yet, Brett?

  4. What legal recourse does the CMU professor have?

  5. How about we compromise and speak of the “Nigger-word”?

    Capitalized for respect. Hyphenated to show its bifurcated history. Combined with “-word” to hide it from sensitive folk.

    1. I thought I saw the ‘fnords’ in the paper again.

      1. My parrot was just pinin’ for those.

        Or maybe it was something else…

  6. The court concluded that the speech wasn’t on a matter of “public concern,” and thus not protected against the government as employer, because it wasn’t tied to any broader matters, wasn’t part of classroom teaching, and “served to advance no academic message”

    I dunno. The mens’ football and basketball programs are for-profit operations designed to earn money for the university, and thus are of great public concern, and thus so is motivation to win.

  7. And someone was saying earlier defunding universities was an “extreme” idea. I’ve read a few places state legislatures wising up. Would create a lot of room in the budget to just stop funding them. And conveniently would shut down left wing indoctrination centers. Cases like this make it sound like an even better idea. Keep it up universities.

    1. You do realize this story was brought to you by a fellow that works at a university, right?

      1. A mainstream, liberal-libertarian university that hired and continues to employ that fellow (despite the occasional need to apologize for his conduct).

      2. Is that an appeal to authority? Guilt by association? Relevant?

        1. It’s a counterexample.

          1. I think one of the worst things people can learn is the appeal to authority fallacy concept. It’s likely the most misused part of the study of logic and critical thinking in the world (well, at least the internet part of it).

      3. Yeah, he’s onboard that sinking ship, maybe he should be looking for a lifeboat before the water reaches his ankles.

        1. What would that lifeboat be? Can you suggest another institution where you can toss around that word? Business? Military? Church?

          1. I don’t know quite what you mean by “toss around,” but there is an important institution where people routinely accurately mention the word (again, rather than using it to insult) — that is the courts, where there have been nearly 10,000 mentions by judges in court opinions since 2000 alone, as well as over 10,000 (likely much more than 10,000) in court by lawyers filings since 2000. As I said in the post, Judge Keith’s opinion, which the professor here was accurately quoting, is utterly commonplace on this score.

            And we’re talking here about opinions by a wide range of judges; name several of your liberal judicial heroes, and there’ll be opinions by many of them accurately mentioning the word (though I’m sure they’d never use it). It seems to me that what a judge may write in an opinion, a professor and students may discuss in a law class that discusses that opinion.

            1. As I said previously, on the one hand there’s this awful epithet which, if anything insults and offends, insults and offends a good chunk of students. On the other, there’s ‘historical accuracy,’ which could be served with euphemisms. It seems strange to me to come down on the latter side, but YMMV…

              1. I find “white privilege” to be highly inflammatory and racial tinged. It lumps together white people under the stereotype that nothing they have done in their life has been through merit. This is really offensive to people who grew up poor and had many hardships to overcome, but are now otherwise living a good life. So if we are now in the business of banning words, I nominate this one to get similar treatment.

                1. It’s a generalization. Perhaps you need thicker skin, ‘snowflake?’

                  1. No it is reinforcing an ugly stereotype based upon race. If we are now in the business of ‘purging’ offensive things from society, then it is time for this word to go.

                  2. It’s a generalization.

                    Generalizations about hundreds of millions of people based on nothing other than the color of their skin. There’s a word for that, I think…but it escapes me at the moment.

                2. There is no phrase in the English language that gives White Supremacists for comfort and affirmation than White Privilege. There it is just in a nutshell the core principle of their toxic idealogy affirmed and validated by people who should know better.

    2. I’d love to see the Feds cut higher ed.

      1. Putting the people who offer this blog you’re commenting on out of work?

        1. I’m pretty sure the contributors to this blog can find gainful employment in the private sector. The only people who would be concerned about pulling funding from higher ed would be liberals who have nothing to contribute to a company that has to generate revenue through sales to pay their employees.

          1. Why wouldn’t the be there now? You’re just straining to defend your silly initial (and partisan motivated) statement.

            1. Nothing “partisan” about it. Also nothing “silly” about it either. Higher education has for too long been a refuge for liberal extremists. If they want to continue to operate as such they can do so without government backing.

              1. Sure, higher education and the liberal-libertarian mainstream have chosen reason over superstition, history and science over dogma, inclusiveness over insularity, tolerance over bigotry, standard English over random capitalization . . . but conservatives still have lower education, in the form of the many censorship-shackled, fourth-tier, nonsense-teaching schools controlled and attended by conservatives.

                1. If this so-called liberal mainstream is the choice of our society then surely there will be enough demand for the educational institutions that supposed impart those values. They don’t need taxpayer subsidies to peddle their wares.

                  1. Disdain for legitimate education is among my favorite characteristics of bigoted clingers.

            2. You are confusing having lots of choices for having no choice. EV could be a practicing Lawyer, a judge, an Author (as he already is), a computer programmer (returning to his first profession) or go across town to USC or Pepperdine in a private University.

              But more likely UCLA and other public universities would become a private if government funding is cut off.

              1. Why the random capitalization?

                Other than right-wing ignorance and illiteracy . . .

                And what makes you believe the USC dean wishes to assume the UCLA dean’s responsibility for apologizing for Prof. Volokh’s conduct?

            3. You’re just straining to defend your silly initial (and partisan motivated) statement.

              Yep, it’s like you and Sarcastr0 were separated at birth. Or…maybe you weren’t separated….

      2. End all exemptions, grants and subsidies for the slightest viewpoint discrimination. That violates the promise to educate not indoctrinate.

    3. “left wing indoctrination centers”

      It seems to me that most of this type of censorship is driven by “woke” students, who are coddled by fearful administrators. It’s not a result of “indoctrination” by faculty, who are largely the ones getting punished for their speech, as in this story.

  8. How will rap musicians find a word that rhymes with “trigger”? And I don’t mean trigger warnings.


    This blog has operated for
    ______ 0 ________
    days without using a vile racial slur
    and for
    _____ 440 _______
    days without engaging in
    content-driven censorship

  10. Academia is not the place for free thinkers who value open debate.

  11. Campus speech codes should really get the imply/infer thing right.

  12. I see Queen and Kirkland have made their presence felt in this thread.

    Like pigeons in Piazza San Marco.

    1. Sorry to trigger you, snowflake.

    2. I think you owe the pigeons in Piazza San Marco an apology as most of them are less annoying and behave more logically than either the Queen or Kirkland.

      1. Ask Prof. Volokh to censor me. He has done it before, and I sense he wishes to do it again, so . . . take your shot, clinger.

  13. Honestly, I think it is insulting for anyone to demand that the law professor NOT use the word. To make such a demand is to imply that students are so fragile, they cannot tolerate the word in any context, for any purpose. I don’t believe any mentally healthy adult is that fragile, and I would be insulted if anyone assumed I was that fragile.

    Indeed, anyone who is that fragile is not suited for a profession that requires contact with the world at large. Such persons should seek whatever treatment they need to strengthen their psyches so that they can tolerate a professor describing the facts of a free speech case (or a historical event, or a literary work, or . . . ).

    I don’t know to what extent an advertising major must interact with people, but I do know I wouldn’t want to hire, or work alongside, someone who was too fragile to hear facts accurately recounted. I particularly would not want to rely upon a person who said nothing at the time of the offense, but nursed a grudge for two years before airing it on social media.

    And I don’t think it is either “right” or “kind” to assume that other CMU students are as fragile as Skylar Mills.

  14. Words often have more than one meaning depending on context.

    Consider this list:
    Prick (“If you prick me do I not bleed?”)
    Dick, (“Hi Dick; how are you?”)
    Spade: (“Hand me the spade. I want to turn over some soil”)
    Coon: (“I have a coon hound. He’s a good racoon hunter” Note: Coon hound is a breed recognized by the American Kennel Society)
    Fag: (Light my fag, will you.)

    All of these words (and plenty of others) have offensive as well as inoffensive meanings.

    Should the “N-word” be different? (‘In this case the fighting word was You are an “N-word”‘ (actual word used).

    Like the other words, there’s no racist intent and the word isn’t being directed at anyone.

    Recall the case of the public employee who lost his job because he referred the municipality’s austerity budget as “niggardly.” (meaning cheap or petty). Should that be?

    I also find it interesting that universities tend to ignore the occasional use of the n-word if used in a non-racist sense until the episode becomes public and acts against the professor only then. This suggests that it is the publication of the episode (& the ensuing bad press for the institution) that causes it to act.

    The Chinese Criminal Code Art 293 allows the government to sanction a speaker for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” It’s used often against anti-government activists for criticizing the government. This is an example of government control of speech. The analogy of institutions punishing speakers for using a word in a non-racist sense seems similar.

    To be clear I condemn the use of epithets; that is, the use of the above words (and others) against persons to demean a person.

    My point is that offensive words can have inoffensive meanings and when one takes offense when non obviously is intended has deeper problems than can be solved by a blanket ban.

    Remember, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

  15. I suggest testing the Flag Comment function by having everyone Flag every Comment by Queenie from here on end. What does that do?

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