The First Amendment’s definition of free speech and what it covers has recently been a hot button topic in the press.
Since the 2016 election and Milo Yiannopoulos’ “Free Speech Week” at UC Berkeley, the meaning has been perverted into being forced to give anyone a platform regardless of their political views.
According to a report by the Congressional Research Service’s Report for Congress entitled “Freedom of Speech and Press: Exceptions to the First Amendment,” it says, “Even speech that enjoys the most extensive First Amendment protection may be subject to ‘regulations of the time, place, and manner of expression which are content-neutral, are narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest, and leave open ample alternative channels of communication.’”
It essentially boils down to the fact that anyone can say or publish things and the government cannot censor it. This only excludes words used to incite violence or materials deemed obscene, which can also be ambiguous.
The most recent case of what constitutes free speech and whether it's protected comes from Carol Christine Fair, a Georgetown University associate professor in the security studies program who went on a Twitter tirade about the current U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
It has been deemed offensive by many, referring to the nominee as “Kreepy Kavanaugh” as well as deeming him a rapist. She also said the GOP does not care about women and that they are “pro-rape, pro-pederasty, pro-perjury, pro-corruption, pro-Russian hacking, pro-child trafficking, pro-white male supremacy, pro-VERY-late-term abortion of children with AR-15’s … a f—ing death cult.”
Questions were raised over whether this was appropriate behavior for a university professor to be going on a profane Twitter rant, even coming from a personal account.
The controversy comes from the question of if someone can teach unbiased classes when she is so open about her views. Would every student get fair treatment regardless of political affiliation? If not, is it necessary for this person to be fired to ensure all students get equal treatment?
She says she remains unbiased in her conduct towards peers and students. In an interview with Fox News, she said, “I devote a considerable amount of time helping my students get jobs even when they explain to me that their political leanings differ from my own. I maintain a healthy set of contacts of all political persuasions on LinkedIn for the exclusive use of my students. I do not ask my students about their politics before helping them with their job search.”
Georgetown, a Jesuit university, has commented that they are “committed” to freedom of speech and expression though they do not endorse professor Fair’s views.
Being that Georgetown is a private university, they would be well within their rights to fire somebody who did not share their views.
Privately owned companies and institutions do not have to give a platform or job to those whose values do not coincide with that of the owners and board of trustees. If they had been a public university with government funding it would be more of an issue because the government cannot censor or cut funding based on political views as a private owner could.
Ethically there is no obligation for Georgetown to keep her, and it shows great acceptance on their part to keep people of many political affiliations as their professors and mentors for a diversity of opinions.