Violence is prevalent through the entire english language. We’ve got words and phrases that are embedded in our culture that can prevent us from seeing extreme examples of embedded violence in language as a problem. As Student Affairs Educators, we have a responsibility to help our students learn how to communicate within their organizations, to their peers, and to university officials. Understanding how violence influences our communication can be an excellent first step to understanding how civil conversations can devolve into monstrous arguments.

In addition to violent rhetoric, there have been examples of public figures using unacceptable language while addressing the public. The activists and educators who respond to those inappropriate uses of language are often confronted with a response that challenges their right to make a response. The challengers seem to present evidence that by responding to inappropriate language we are encroach on peoples’ right to free speech. This kind of response is astonishing to me because it seems contradictory at it’s very nature. It is also surprising because it seems to completely miss the point that when we mis-speak or say something damaging, we should be made aware of that so that we can learn how to better communicate. This should be a high priority for public figures just as much as it is for me.

I also want to point out the following:

  • Xenophobia and racism are not free speech, they’re patently ignorant and hateful.
  • Being outraged at someone’s violent rhetoric is not suppressing free speech, it’s explaining how someone has been irresponsible with their right.

We all have a right to believe what we do. However, that right ends when we start to encroach upon another person. Spreading a message of violence is not appropriate for our public figures, and I hope we, as Student Affairs Educators, are teaching our students the differences between what they have a right to say and the responsibility they have to participate in our society civilly. There is a difference.

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