Following the spray-painting on the NC State University campus of the n-word and the recommendation that President-Elect Obama should be shot in the head, UNC system Chancellor Erskine Bowles has appointed a commission to look into banning "hate speech" from all constituent institutions.
That's a bad idea.
If the student prank at NC State constitutes an actual threat of violence under federal law, let it be prosecuted. Actual threats, in light of this nation's recent history of political assassinations, have to be taken seriously. But to attempt to control every stupid thing that an undergraduate might say -- or spray paint -- in the heat of self-importance, we'll soon discover an inexhaustible supply of stupid things said by self-important undergraduates.
It would also be a suppression of free speech not supported by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Not a road we should be going down, when mere exposure to public opinion often renders the most effective punishment to hormonally imbalanced teenagers with an insatiable need to strut.