Legitimate Limits on Free Expression

I was thinking about freedom of speech, the thinks we want to say, the things we are allowed to say, and things we finally say! I found a chapter by Deni Elliot  which was about freedom of expression in higher education and its limitations.

He argues that freedom in speech is not absolute and we are legally, ethically and conventionally constrained from saying/writing the words which have the potential to harm individuals or society, to create horror in public spaces, to incite riots and to advocate the violent overthrow of the government. Since colleges and universities are communities with the specific goal of transmitting and advancing knowledge among a more diverse group of people, these restrictions change into a new form. In my opinion universities, as places for encouraging democracy and citizenship, must be more tolerable and more flexible toward critics and questioning of university policies and administration.

A diversity of expression should be encouraged by higher education even if they seem to be false or in opposition with majority, since if the opinion is considered right, after expression there is a chance for exchanging error for enhanced reality; if wrong, a clearer perception and livelier impression of truth produced by its collision with error will emerge. By diversity of expression, we still emphasize on the golden rule of not causing pain to individuals within community, except for especial occasions such as sexual harassment. What I personally believe is that freedom of expression should be limited solely in case it directly subverts or abridges the rights of others.


  • May, W. W., & American Council on Education (Eds.). (1990). Ethics and higher education. New York: Toronto : New York: American Council on Education : Macmillan Pub. Co. ; Collier Macmillan Canada ; Maxwell Macmillan International.

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