The Right Coast

May 07, 2004
Speech code for Boalt Hall
By Tom Smith

A speech code for Boalt Hall? How tedious. According to the first hand account on the Volokh site, the offending guest lecturer was role playing a crabby CFO of a midwestern construction company, and in that role said his company did not employ inferior Mexican immigrant labor, or words to that effect. If the new speech code, assuming it is decreed, or whatever it is you do to impose speech codes, is designed to stop this sort of thing, it will be pretty hard to engage in role playing of people who say "hurtful" things. Perhaps you could have a rule under which, when you were just role playing, a helper could stand to your left, holding a big poster board with a giant left quotation mark on it, and one to your right with a giant right quotation mark (oh wait, it would have to be a left mark on your right, and a right mark on your left, or else it would look backwards!), and that way everyone would know you were just role-playing. But, I suppose this could easily lead to abuses. Student groups could sponsor lecturers who could say whatever they wanted, so long as they had the quotation mark helpers standing on either side. A problem, perhaps too deep a problem for me. It's a complicated business, regulating the circumstances under which a person is allowed to speak freely.