Education

Student uses racial slurs to make point about freedom of speech, faces punishment

Fallout continues unabated at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln after a graduate student senator wove an amazing tapestry of racial slurs during a student government meeting last week.

The student, graduate research assistant and Ph.D. candidate Cameron Murphy, used the n-word a bunch of times in the course of citing a comedy routine by Chris Rock, reports the Daily Nebraskan, NU’s campus newspaper.

Murphy, who won his seat thanks to a successful write-in campaign, also questioned whether it was offensive to don sombreros in a Homecoming skit. And, of course, he offered as evidence of his own cultural awareness the fact that he has been called a “cracker.”

By all accounts, Murphy was making a broader point about free speech in response to a resolution against offensive speech passed by the taxpayer-funded school’s student council. Specifically, he was suggesting that the resolution wrongly restricts his speech and the speech of others.

The graduate student’s point was utterly lost on other student government representatives.

“I was in shock. I was sick to my stomach,” fellow student senator Annie Himes told local ABC affiliate KLKN.

“The body was visibly uncomfortable,” she added. “People had their hands on their faces. People had their heads on the tables.”

Himes praised herself for heroically asking Murphy to stop speaking.

Hines also suggested that Murphy be brought up on disciplinary charges for his free-speech stunt arguing against limits on free speech at the public school, according to KLKN.

Murphy will meet with the student council’s executive board in the coming weeks to defend himself against punishment up to and including impeachment for his derogatory language.

University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s chancellor, Harvey Perlman, sent a school-wide letter this week admonishing students that “racial epithets and racial impersonations are not acceptable anywhere, but especially in an institution devoted to education and progress.”

The Daily Nebraskan also got in on the speech-squashing fun.

“Sure, free speech is alive and important,” the student editors wrote. “But our student representatives should hold themselves to a higher standard in the way they conduct themselves and interact with others.”

On his LinkedIn page, Murphy describes himself as “an independent minded scientist” who hopes to “create new drugs and procedures to treat a wide variety of disease.”

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