To the Editor:
I was relieved to see that Harvey Silverglate’s letter appeared in the April Fools’ Day “parody” issue of The Record. Otherwise one might actually have to take seriously his contention that students who speak their minds about racism and sexism dishonor free speech, or try to make sense of his hysterical reaction to “a standing room only ‘town hall meeting called to discuss allegations of racism and sexism.'” Oh, the horror – students assembling and speaking freely about racism and sexism, in a well-attended forum, no less!
The purveyors of adolescent, bigoted, misogynist claptrap do not have a monopoly on free speech. Those who stand up to criticize racism and sexism in an environment often hostile to the reflective discussion of either are just as entitled to free speech. Harvey Silverglate and other self-designated protectors of free speech may think that HLS students need instruction from them as to what qualifies as free speech and academic freedom (contrary to what Mr. Silverglate implies, these terms are not interchangeable), but wishing does not make it so.
Regarding his sophisticated reference to Hustler v. Falwell, Mr. Silverglate might do well to recall that the chief finding of that case was that a “public figure” may be barred from recovering damages for defamation. While HLS is a pretty prestigious place, I suspect that merely being a member of the student body here doesn’t transform us all into public figures. As to the contention that “[p]arody is supposed to be biting and hard-hitting,” I wonder if Mr. Silverglate can cite a single example of the Parody’s biting, hard-hitting satire among the breast jokes and the Ebonics. Finally, Mr. Silverglate and others critical of the Parody town hall might also want to consider that critique of the Parody is not animated by mere “hurt feelings,” but rather by concern about the impoverishment of social discourse on contentious issues such as racism and sexism at HLS. But then again, Mr. Silverglate seems to think that HLS needs no higher standards for social discourse than those of Hustler magazine. Let’s just hope it was a joke.
Mary Anne Franks, 2L
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