MUPD looks to address victims of hurtful speech
The director of the Missouri branch of the ACLU called MUPD’s efforts “too much and too little.”
Nov. 10, 2015
The MU Police Department is urging victims of hate or hurtful speech to file reports.
In an email sent out at 9:54 a.m. Tuesday, MUPD acknowledges that while hurtful hate speech is not an actual crime, they have listed measures that witnesses can take “to ensure that the University of Missouri campus remains safe.”
MUPD encouraged victims to call police immediately and provide a detailed description of the perpetrator and the incident, along with license plate numbers.
While hate speech is not a crime punishable by law, the report says that if the person issuing hateful speech is a student, the report can be filed to the MU Student Conduct Office so punitive action can be taken on an academic level.
The email also requested that victims of hurtful speech should delay posting information on social media because it can “reduce” the chances of identifying the individual responsible.
Missouri Students Association President Payton Head informed MUPD about his incident of racially charged verbal harassment and days afterward posted a detailed account of his experience on social media.
Jeffrey Mittman, director of the Missouri branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, expressed disappointment in MUPD’s email, which he called “too much and too little” in a statement released earlier Tuesday.
“Racial epithets addressed to a specific person in a threatening or intimidating manner can be illegal, and may require action by police and/or university administrators,” Mittman said in the email. “But no governmental entity has the authority to broadly prohibit ‘hurtful’ speech — or even undefined ‘hateful’ speech or to discipline against it.”
Mittman clarified, saying that while institutional oppression requires attention and corrective action, doing so in a way that counteracts the First Amendment is not a “wise or appropriate response.”
“Missourians can rightfully expect our public university to establish policies and practices that proactively educate administrators, faculty, staff and students about the causes of, and solutions to, systemic racism and inequality, and that comports with the right to free speech and expression,” Mittman said.