have heard recently, it appears that some fear the free marketplace of ideas and are attempting to silence unpopular opinions. This is a sad comment on the state of education, that an institution that ostensibly celebrates free expression could be a bastion of intolerance. However, it is refreshing that a few understand that, under the First Amendment, there is no such thing as a “false idea,” that even offensive speech is protected. As U.T. Law School Dean Michael Sharlot stated, “The First Amendment is part of the nation’s heritage and brings with it the problem of protecting the rights of many people to say things that are intolerable to other people.” Charles Zucker of the Texas Faculty Association concurred, stating that “even the most inflammatory statements should be protected.” Many students, somewhat calmer than a week and a half ago, generally admit that Graglia was within his Constitutional rights. Unfortunately, this is not true of everyone. Some legislators who have sworn to uphold and protect our Constitutional right to free expression are the very ones who are intolerant of differing opinions and are willing to use fiscal extortion to enforce conformity. State Senator Barrientos and the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus have called for Graglia’s firing and have threatened to “seriously scrutinize the funding levels of the U.T. system” if action is not taken against Graglia. However, in doing so they are attempting to quash what is arguably the “minority” viewpoint and are destroying the diversity of opinion. Some have labeled those clamoring for Graglia’s head as “liberals,” but true liberals respect an individual’s right to speak. This fervent outcry more closely resembles McCarthyism. There also still exist students, citizens, administrators, and politicians who are calling for Graglia’s resignation, or at least, disciplinary action. Graglia’s comments have exposed his insensitivity, a general misinterpretation of the statistics he was commenting on, and a misdirected comment on the role of affirmative action. However, the outcry about his comments has exposed a misunderstanding about freedom of speech and the important role that differing views serve in our society. State Representative Hugo Berlanga stated, “We do understand First Amendment rights, but at the same time, the University of Texas must ensure that their professors are rational and competent in their classrooms and’ in public.” An “understanding” that involves the compromising of those very rights is certainly a unique understanding. Anyone who has taken an undergraduate course in constitutional theory can see that Mr. Berlanga does not understand the First Amendment. But once again, it is reassuring to see that many do understand that Graglia is protected under the First Amendment. People simply disagree with what he said. The right to free speech obviously allows someone to express his or her views, no matter how unpopular or misguided. Furthermore, “disciplinary” action against Graglia has been wisely abandoned by administrators. Protection under the First Amendment is clear, but a crucial point has been ignored, because the right to free speechthe freedom to express one’s views and ideasis only half the equation. No one seems willing to admit or realize the benefits of Graglia’s comments. Regardless of one’s feelings about Graglia or his statements, his comments have served to mobilize a great number of students and citizens to act on their own views. Committees and panels are being formed to discuss the role of tenure, affirmative action, and diversity. The Daily Texan, the Austin-American Statesman, and The New York Times, to name a few publications, have received an onslaught of letters on the issues of affirmative action and free speech. The entire university is talking about the validity or the stupidity or the insensitivity of Graglia’s views. One can scarcely walk the U.T. campus without hearing the words “Graglia” or “affirmative action.” But not since the initial Hopwood decision has our student body been shaken out of its ennui and apathy. This is not to suggest that other issues have escaped notice, but when have there been so many people upset and excited, actually engaging in meaningful discourse with others who may share differing opinions? For all the tension and anger that Graglia’s comments may have created, their benefit to this cam pus, its student body, and to the entire debate cannot be ignored. Thus, the second half of the free-speech equation: the benefits of inflammatory and unpopular speech. Justice William 0. Douglas testified to this benefit and to the wisdom of free speech and the First Amendment in the court’s opinion in Terminiello: “[A] function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger.” Michael Todd Calvert and Phillip Meyer University Civil Liberties Union U.T.Austin WHILE YOU’RE AT IT, BUY A SUB! I saw Molly Ivins’ column in Liberal Opinion. .I am a long-time fan of Molly, and if she says you guys do a great job and she doesI believe her. I will be a regular visitor to your site. Lorenzo Kent Kimball inconnect. corn www.hyperweb.com/txobserver If Molly says you are ok and doing a good job, you’re all right with me. Keep up the good work, and I intend to keep up with your web page frequently. William Rutter valley. net Write Dialogue The Texas Observer 307 W. 7th St. Austin TX 78701 email: [email protected] Readers are invited to submit letters on subjects covered in the Observer, and we ask that letters generally be brief the point. We reserve the right to edit for libel and clarity \(eliminating the we generally try to leave well enough alone. Letters may be submitted via the \([email protected] OCTOBER 10, 1997 . THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3
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