Illustration by Anastasiia Zubareva
Thinking back to John Sexton’s last candidate weekend I remember him talking about how diverse and open-minded the NYU community is.
Last February in NYU New York, a protest took place against conservative comedian Gavin McInnes, who was invited to speak at the Kimmel Center on campus by the NYU College Republicans group. McInnes was forced to cut his speech short because of protesters occupying the center and using pepper spray. The main accusation against McInnes and the conference attendees was that they were promoting hate speech. Hate Speech is described as the advocacy of hatred based on nationality, race or religion and it can manifest in the form of conduct, speech, writing or displays of violence. The behaviour of the protesters was not open-minded at all. Invading a peaceful speech and using pepper spray to incite panic is not the correct way to confront hate speech.
Hate speech is a controversial topic; it is hard to judge what could be considered as hate speech. While some would argue that Donald Trump’s comments on Mexicans during the 2016 presidential election were simply an expression of an opinion and free speech, some would condemn it as hate speech.
Depending on the person's ideology, there are different understandings of what is considered to be hate speech. This is why barging into a peaceful speech is not the right way to confront hate speech. There must be other nonviolent ways to solve conflicts and a rational discussion can be one of them. We cannot resolve such a subjective issue by shouting at each other.
Some might ask, if NYU Abu Dhabi has never experienced substantive issues regarding hate speech, why should we bother? We should bother because NYUAD is home to so many different cultures with a range of opinions on all issues. If we avoid confronting viewpoints we do not agree with, we run the risk of reacting like the protesters at NYU New York, preferring shouting and pepper spraying over a well-reasoned argument with our peers.
It would not be productive if NYUAD decided to ban potentially offensive speech from campus. As stated above, someone’s understanding of hate speech varies depending on their ideologies and opinions. Indeed, banning hate speech would create a bubble in which only selected viewpoints are allowed. As a result, we would be living in a fictional reality in which we are no longer intellectually challenged or stimulated. Once we graduate, study abroad even, we will be left without the coziness and understanding that NYUAD provided.
Andrea Arletti is Deputy News Editor. Email him at [email protected]