Maryland: First Amendment Protects Offensive Email

April 2, 2015

The University of Maryland at College Park has concluded that an offensive email in which a fraternity member told brothers to ignore the idea that women need to consent to sex, and in which he used a series of racist and sexist terms, is protected by the First Amendment. "This private email, while hateful and reprehensible, did not violate university policies and is protected by the First Amendment," said a statement issued by Wallace D. Loh, president of the university. That the author of the email can't be legally punished, Loh wrote, does not mean that the hurt it caused was not real. The email "caused anger and anguish, pain and fear, among many people. It subverts our core values of inclusivity, human dignity, safety and mutual respect. When any one of us is harmed by the hateful speech of another, all of us are harmed," Loh wrote.

The university previously announced that the author of the email and the university had "mutually agreed" that he would not be enrolled for the rest of the semester. Loh's statement included an apology from the student. "I regret sending that email more than I'll ever be able to put into words," he wrote. "I know there is no way to erase this incident or the agony it has caused, but I want you to know that I will strive to never use such language again. I have learned an important life lesson, realizing there is no room for hate or prejudice of any kind in our community. I am committed to becoming a better person, a person that appreciates differences."

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