Auburn University is choosing to align with conservative values over their usual rigid defense of freedom of speech. On Wednesday, July 23, Dr. Jesse Goldberg, a new lecturer at Auburn University tweeted some choice words about police brutality:
"F*ck every single cop,” he wrote. “Every single one. The only ethical choice for any cop to make at this point is to refuse to do their job and quit. The police do not protect people. They protect capital. They are instruments of violence on behalf of capital."
To which Auburn University official Brian Keeter responded,
"We find Mr. Goldberg’s comments inexcusable and completely counter to Auburn values. Hate speech of any kind is simply wrong,” adding, “Auburn is fully committed to the fundamental right of free speech, but we do not support hateful words or actions that degrade, disrespect or exclude.” Concluding, “Auburn officials are considering options available to the university."
As an aside, hate speech is not just any expression of contempt. It is specifically defined as aggressive speech against people of a particular race, religion, or sexual orientation. One is not born a cop; it is a choice. Therefore, condemnation of those who choose to participate in this oppressive system cannot be considered hate speech. Regardless, I find this hard and fast response to what Keeter is calling "hate speech" out of character considering the context of Auburn's response to actual hate speech in the past.
Not even a year ago, the University refused to act on hate speech against the LGBTQ community when homophobic College of Education professor Bruce Murray made several posts to social media that denied the existence of transgender people, including a meme of a trans woman with the caption, “Today’s liberals are so dumb they think men can change into women. And so evil they will punish you for telling the truth.”
I think it is important to note that hate speech like this fuels hate crimes against trans women, and in Alabama there are currently no protections against hate crimes for people of the LGBTQ community.
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In light of this incident, the University's response was markedly different. Auburn University issued an official statement citing freedom of speech, and the College of Education Associate Dean stated, “His personal beliefs are really no concern of mine, as they are any other faculty member.”
So, I want to know. Where does Auburn University draw the line on freedom of speech? The line is certainly not in a place concerned with protecting human lives. As of now, it appears to be the same line distinguishing liberal and conservative values.
Kayleigh Chalkowski is a Ph.D. student in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University.
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