An Open Conversation on St. John’s and Respect


The question of freedom of speech vs. hate speech is something of considerable debate, and St. John’s University is not by any means immune to this conversation. As a university, we are obligated to educate, enrich and empower our students to be the next leaders of tomorrow, whether that be in an office space or in politics. Even at a Catholic university, it goes without question that all are welcome; diversity of faith, race, gender and ethnicity makes us better and gives us perspective. As professors, we sign an unofficial pact with our students to ensure that all are welcome. We take their views into consideration, and at times, open the dialogue for correction and learning. We are not perfect, nor is any university.  

As such, it should be no surprise that incidents occur on university grounds, though we always wish that not to be the case, it is a fact of life. However, there must be a line drawn between what is hate speech and what is freedom of expression. Freedom of speech exists only if another person’s right to a happy and healthy life is not infringed upon. Regardless of your convictions, understandings or ideology, people have the right to exist, believe and identify as they choose. It is not a matter of theological or biological debates. Respect comes first, and the inalienable rights of ALL humans must be put into consideration before anything else.

For this reason, St. John’s University does not require students to be of the Catholic faith to attend. It is open to all. As a university, we have implemented a bias reporting system that holds all of us accountable: students, administrators and even us professors. 

Change, like history, can only come once we acknowledge that the views and opinions we have will change over time and space. So let the conversation begin.