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Free speech at UC -- more is better

 Free speech at UC -- more is better
Spectators gather for a sing-along to honor the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement at Sproul Plaza on the University of California, Berkeley campus, on Sept. 23, 2014. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: The University of California can do a great service to its students by encouraging more, not less, speech. ("UC to revisit its free-speech policy," Sept. 18, and "Intolerance and free speech," Editorial, Sept. 16)

Stop policies that encourage hypersensitivity. Teach students to evaluate emotional speech for what it is: expressions of fear and sometimes irrational loyalties to ethnic, racial, religious and gender groups. Instead of being offended, students should learn to separate emotional and rational arguments, and to see how leaders manipulate emotions to create power for themselves.

Teaching students to be strong when confronted with adversity and intolerance would be much more valuable than training them to expect to be coddled and protected by organizations.

Oren Grossi, Long Beach

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To the editor: As someone who attended UCLA when we had Angela Davis and much emotional discourse about race and justice, I find it strange and puzzling that the University of California sees fit to promulgate a written policy on free speech, which is already codified.

It seems that what UC is really doing is narrowing the universe of what is permitted, according to politically correct ideas.

How can the university protect people from "intolerant" or "offensive" ideas when the Internet is full of such? It seems to me that the real intent is to create a hammer to stifle faculty and student expression of unpopular ideas.

John Bowen, Goleta, Calif.

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To the editor: Kudos to the UC regents for their decision to withdraw the previous controversial policy statement and launch a new effort to rewrite it over the next few months, thus allowing for free speech while protecting students against prejudice.

Rhya Turovsky, Pasadena

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To the editor: So it seems UC has decided to ignore your sensible editorial and proceed with controls on speech. But what does it think this might achieve?

Vandalism is already a crime. Does UC think that if there had been a tighter policy, those who vandalized a Jewish fraternity would have said, "Oh no, we won't do this"?

Likewise, bullying and intimidation are already offenses.

What the regents need to recognize is that many of the activists now complaining want to be able to win arguments by means of a prohibition against them even being discussed.

Rory Johnston, Hollywood

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To the editor: Normally, I'm liberal, but on this issue, I'm libertarian.

We don't need a nanny state telling people what to say and what not to say. Let them speak freely. Some of the speech may be offensive and may cause the sensitive types to curl up in the fetal position. Most people are made of sterner stuff.

If you let authority dictate what you can and can't say, you may be pleased with the immediate results, but watch out: What eventually follows is a stifling of all speech the authority dislikes.

Neil Murray, Lilburn, Ga.

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To the editor: If we accept the premise that there is freedom of speech — and we do — we must also accept the premise that the consequences will not always be pleasant.

This includes acceptance of hateful speech as well. Free speech should include the written word, the published word and the spoken word in a wide variety of formats. It does not include defacing property, restraint or attacks on the targets, or any form of violence.

In our culture, controversy, challenge and disagreement should be encouraged, even when outrageous. History has shown that sometimes confrontation is the correct response. Other times, simple silence as a rejection has allowed the ridiculous to dry up and blow away. Some actions result in compromise and change, sometimes for the better.

Bottom line, students: suck it up. The world you will find after school isn't going to be sensitive or friendly. That's life.

Leonard B. Rich, Placentia

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To the editor: As a UC philosopher, I would maintain that no nation has a moral right to be a theocracy, whether it be the Vatican, Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, wherever. All human beings are entitled to the contents of their consciences, entitled to hold whatever religious values they hold dear. But none are entitled to restrict the freedoms of others who are of different faiths or none at all.

Theocracies are notorious for violating the rights and freedom of non-believers. UC policy must respect that.

David Glidden, Riverside

The writer is a professor of philosophy emeritus at UC Riverside.

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