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Free Speech and Slurs: Rights vs. Respect

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Slurs, either spoken or printed, can be classified as expressions of derogation, because their use is a generalized, negative characterization or classification of groups without regard to individual uniqueness. The use of such slurs consequently can cause the target and the listener or reader (i.e., receiver) discomfort, unless the receiver has developed an ability to depersonalize such communication. Due to the potential of derogatory slurs to cause harm, some advocate the implementation of prior restrictions or subsequent sanctions to curb the use of slurs. To do so, however, poses a threat to America's most valued freedom: speech. In this examination of the derogatory aspect of slurs, the authors demonstrate that the guarantee of free speech in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is considered by the courts as so sacred that offensive speech, such as slurs, is protected in public use. Even so, college campuses cannot remain open forums of free expression if students are not sufficiently instructed to respect all cultures.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2017

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  • College Student Journal publishes original investigations and theoretical papers dealing with college student values, attitudes, opinions, and learning. Topics include the areas of undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools, and may also include selected contributions dealing with college preparation.

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