John Carroll University Professor: We Do Not Have to Follow the First Amendment

pocket constitution
Chip Somodevilla/Getty

A journalism professor at John Carroll University says that the school “fortunately” does not have to abide by the First Amendment, as it is a private university that can ban “hate speech” from the student newspaper. The professor, who spoke to Breitbart News about a recent incident involving a conservative student editor censored by the school’s newspaper, acknowledged that she still needs to figure out how to define the term “hate speech.”

Journalism professor Carrie Buchanan, who is also the adviser to the school’s student newspaper The Carroll News, told Breitbart News that John Carroll University (JCU) is fortunate in that the school does not have to follow the First Amendment, or, as the professor preferred to call it, “an absolutist interpretation” of it.

“I realize that the First Amendment protects hate speech, but fortunately, we do not have to follow an absolutist interpretation of the First Amendment because we are a private college,” said the professor to Breitbart News, clarifying her position regarding a recent incident involving one of the newspaper’s now former editors.

Former Carroll News editor Declan Leary had resigned after the student newspaper announced it would be revising its editorial guidelines so that the campus community would no longer be subjected to the “tone” and “language” in the conservative student’s op-eds.

“First, let me be clear that I am speaking only for myself,” said professor Buchanan as a preface to her remarks to Breitbart News, “I don’t speak for the university as a whole.”

“We did not force Declan to resign,” insisted the professor, claiming that the student had been suspended for two of his editions because he had “violated the mission and guidelines.”

“They place the blame on me despite their approval of every word I wrote,” Leary told Breitbart News.

When Breitbart News questioned why the newspaper’s staff had initially approved the op-eds if they believed them to be in violation of the guidelines, the professor confessed that action was taken in response to “protests.”

“We realized only later, after many protests and explanations from students in the LGBT community,” said professor Buchanan, who also noted that JCU faculty and staff were among those in protest of Leary’s opinion pieces.

“He would be welcome to return, but only if he agrees to again sign the guidelines, which we are planning to update over the summer,” added professor Buchanan.

It is clear that the editorial guidelines are being updated in large part — if not solely — due to the conservative editor, as the student newspaper affirmed in its own statement that “while Leary has decided to resign — we will be drafting new guidelines to ensure this issue does not recur in the future.”

The “issue,” which the newspaper describes as “Leary’s tone and choice of language” began last semester, over an op-ed in which the conservative student had criticized a JCU-funded “drag show,” arguing that a Catholic university campus is not an acceptable location for hosting such events.

“Because there had been such an uproar over two of Declan Leary’s columns, specifically, we were called upon to identify him,” said professor Buchanan in response to Breitbart News’ inquiry as to why the newspaper’s staff felt it was appropriate to name the student in its statement to the entire campus community.

The professor had also stressed the importance of the public understanding that JCU, as a private institution, has the ability to “refuse to publish things that fall into the category of hate speech.”

But when Breitbart News questioned what the professor considers to be “hate speech,” Buchanan acknowledged that she is still trying to figure that out, adding that the term can be “very challenging” to define.

“We are therefore doing research on the concept of ‘hate speech,’ seeking a definition that we could state clearly, that might conceivably apply to all cases,” said professor Buchanan, “This might not be possible, but we will make the attempt to be as clear as possible.”

The professor noted Canada’s “hate-speech law” as an example.

“It’s terribly difficult to define,” continued professor Buchanan, conceding to the reality that Canada, too, has had trouble defining the term, “it has to be considered in the context of the actual words used in each case.”

Canadian clinical psychologist and University of Toronto professor, Jordan Peterson, has also expressed his views regarding the concept of “hate speech” laws in his country.

“Hate speech laws are bad enough,” says Peterson, “It’s not like there’s no hate speech — anyone with any sense knows that there’s hate speech. Who’s going to regulate it? Who’s going to define it? I know the answer to that: the last people in the world you would want to.”

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo and on Instagram.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.