MU Police want students to report hateful speech

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COLUMBIA - MU students and faculty received an email from MUPD Tuesday morning telling them how to report hateful speech and actions on campus. 

The email said people who see or hear hateful actions should call MUPD, summarize the incident and provide the department with all relevant information. MUPD told witnesses to take photos of people who are involved, if it can be done safely. 

Some students were glad to see the email, but said the university could have taken this action earlier.

"I mean I'm glad we have this option," said MU student Hannah Dismer. "I feel like this should have been common knowledge and I feel like the university needed to do this a while back and announce it or repeat announce it every semester."  

MUPD's email reminded students and faculty, "while cases of hateful or hurtful speech are not crimes, if the individual(s) identified are students, MU's Office of Student Conduct can take disciplinary action." 

One student said, although freedom of speech is important, students on campus should feel accepted.

"When it comes to a point when students feel victimized and threatened on campus when they're supposed to feel accepted, it starts to get to a point, yeah maybe they're not breaking the law, but some sort of punishment should be an act for those students," Kelly Shaw said. 

Dismer said she believes it is important for the student conduct office to know about hateful speech on campus. 

"They can better prepare themselves and better help students who are actually experiencing this," Dismer said. "The university must first understand it and only by listening to the student's experiences."

The ACLU of Missouri said in a statement Tuesday afternoon, the request from MUPD to report hurtful speech "simultaneously does too much and too little."

"Racial epithets addressed to a specific person in a threatening or intimidating manner can be illegal, and may require action by police and/or university administrators. But, no governmental entity has the authority to broadly prohibit 'hurtful' speech - or even undefined 'hateful' speech, or to discipline against it.

Conversely, institutional racism and a history of turning a blind-eye to systemic inequities does require action. But mistakenly addressing symptoms - instead of causes - and doing it in a way that runs counter to the First Amendment is not the wise or appropriate response." 

MUPD told KOMU 8 News it had no one available for an interview Tuesday.