Jewish World Review Nov. 26 , 2002 / 21 Kislev, 5763

Dan Abrams

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Training lawyers to be touchy-feely | Harvard Law School is considering a speech code that would ban what is being called "harassing offensive language" from classrooms and maybe even throughout the campus. And first-year students now get to attend a new course to help them "manage difficult conversations."

WHAT IS going on? This is the way these students learn about freedom of speech by attempting to sanitize the discourse on campus? The primary teaching method at many law schools involves professors challenging students in class.

I'm certain that many students might feel "harassed" by those intellectually demanding and sometimes controversial questions, an effort to help budding lawyers assess where legal lines should be drawn. Professors there are already complaining that the discussions have suffered as a result of this hypersensitivity. Look, being a lawyer often involves dealing with offensive comments.

If you're not comfortable with controversy, don't go to law school. This all started with a racial slur in a course outline posted online by a student and is morphed into a debate over what students and professors should and should not be able to say in class.

Racists and bigots should be criticized, even ostracized, but when it comes to getting the university involved, it has to be action, more than just speech.

There's just no objective fair and constitutional way to define what is acceptable speech and what is not, particularly not at a law school where they should know better.

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JWR contributor Dan Abrams anchors “The Abrams Report,” Monday through Friday from 6-7 p.m. ET on MSNBC TV. He also covers legal stories for “NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw,” “Today” and “Dateline NBC.” To visit his website, click here. Comment by clicking here.


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