Frat chat: Curtailing free speech is more dangerous than despicable, terrible, horrible stupid things people say

By now you might have seen the AJ Plus (an online news and current events channel run by Al Jazeera Media Network)  video on Facebook in which student Anissa Garcia calls for the expulsion of those involved in the so-called frat chat.

The Cocaine Cowboy (Kyle Mitchell) and others wrote detestable comments about people who came to the country illegally.  Among the ideas bandied about was a proposal to shoot such people for sport. It was far more vile than I care to repeat here.

Making matters worse, The Cocaine Cowboy was the president of the Texas Tech Interfraternity Council.  He should have known better.

Mitchell publicly apologized and resigned.

Garcia appeared in the AJ+ video with Jacob Veloz.

“Things like this cannot just be swept under the rug,” Garcia said. “Something needs to happen.  And these students need to be expelled.”

“If the university states that these are statements that do not represent Texas Tech then these students should not be here either,” she said.\

I would argue that not every student must agree with every policy statement of the university as a condition of enrollment, but set that aside, because here the frat chat statements really are so very vulgar.

Garcia and Veloz are not wrong, except two points. They are 100 percent right to call out the behavior of the frat chat as racist and unacceptable. They got that part right.

However, first, they erroneously call out the university for its defense of free speech which was reasoned, careful, responsible and not used as a cheap excuse for bad behavior.

The university said, “Our Constitution protects the right to speak, even when the nature of the speech is as disturbing as what these individuals wrote in their messages.”

Free speech is a hard-won right, the absence of which leaves Garcia and Veloz with no power to criticize students who are probably better funded and better connected.

Let that sink in for a moment. Without free speech, racist bullying runs amuck because it has better funding and better social connections.

How did the civil rights marches come about in 1960-1964 if not for the First Amendment? Let’s not be so quick to damn free speech.

Second, they also demand the expulsion of those involved in the frat chat. And I think they’re wrong.

Here’s why.

Once the university expels the students, it no longer has power or influence over them.  It no longer has a mechanism by which it can teach these young men what they did wrong and why it was wrong.

By extension, if Texas Tech should expel them then they must be banned from all public universities and perhaps all higher-education of any kind. Otherwise, what is the point of expulsion?

What … they take a trip to UT-Austin or College Station?  That would seem to miss the point of expulsion, wouldn’t it?

How far does this go? Do we protest every minimum-wage employer who might hire the frat chatters?  Do we demand that no welfare or social safety net be extended?

In Biblical times, getting cast out of the camp meant a high likelihood of death in the desert wilderness.  Again, how far does this go?

In modern times, the frat chatters don’t literally die. They just become recruitment targets for the Alt-right. If someone says the frat chatters are already in orbit around the ideas of the Alt-right then all the more reason not to push them in that direction or abandon them, especially if a better alternative is arguably within reach.

The absolute best possible outcome would be much more than these young men learning what they did wrong and never doing it again. Much more. The best outcome is for these young men to become advocates — genuine heartfelt passionate advocates — for treating other people with compassion.

There’s no better outcome I can think of. And that outcome is off the table after expulsion.

What if they get a second chance and do the very same thing again?  At that point, I would say expulsion makes more sense.

I doubt as Garcia suggests that President Lawrence E. Schovanec or Carol A. Sumner, vice president of the Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion would participate in “sweeping this under the rug.” I just don’t see that as realistic.

My guess is the frat chatters have been sternly warned that even one step off of the straight and narrow path will be an instant ticket to any place other than Texas Tech.  My guess is that most of them will take that seriously and make the most of their second chance.

Link to AJ Plus video

https://www.facebook.com/ajplusenglish/videos/274197843348072/