Of course, the blame for all of this “unlearned liberty” doesn’t rest solely with the students. With administrators like UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman, it’s no surprise that students misunderstand the principles of free speech. Perlman addressed the incident in a message to the entire UNL community, saying:As far as anyone knows, Mr. Murphy is still awaiting expulsion from the Senate. Meanwhile, over the weekend, the New York Times, distributed on campus by the same ASUN, published a column by Ta-Nehisi Coates which had no fewer than 13 instances of the spelled-out N word, which got Mr. Murphy in trouble. One law for us, another law for them.Racial epithets and racial impersonations are not acceptable anywhere but especially in an institution devoted to education and progress. ... I am deeply hurt that use of this language has been used here, for purposes I can’t imagine and in venues where civil discourse and its values are honored. We don’t need to debate any nuance of free speech to conclude such language is harmful, despicable, and intolerable.Perlman is seemingly unaware of the purpose for which the offending words were spoken. This message conveys no sense of context, as if a student had inexplicably launched into a racist tirade without prompting—when in fact Murphy chose his language specifically to make a point about free speech and the nuances of words that make banning them a bad idea.
But then, above all else, Nebraska has lacked self-awareness and a sense of irony during this whole affair. Hasn't anyone even noticed that their chintzy slogan Not Here, Not Now, Not Ever doesn't exactly broadcast tolerance?