The New Heckler's Veto: Shouting Down Speech on University Campuses

28 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2019

See all articles by Charles Nary

Charles Nary

University of Pennsylvania, Law School, Students

Date Written: 2018


This Comment advocates an original position for how universities should deal with the problem of protestors preventing invited speakers from talking by shouting over them. There is not much existing scholarship on this specific topic of what I am terming the “New Heckler’s Veto,” an updated and modified version of the term coined by Professor Harry Kalven. Under the New Heckler’s Veto, the heckler uses the volume of his voice, rather than a threat of violence, to shut down speakers who he disagrees with. Free speech on campus has been and continues to be a hot-button issue, particularly within the legal community. The goal of this Comment is to examine how this problem can be combatted by universities and event organizers.

First, this Comment will define the “New Heckler’s Veto” by comparing it with what is legally termed the “heckler’s veto.” Second, it will look at current attitudes of college students towards the New Heckler’s Veto and examine examples of it in action. Third, this Comment will examine the importance of discussion to free speech and American society. Fourth, it will survey the First Amendment legal framework and look at an application of the law to analogous situations. Fifth, this Comment will outline and discuss my six-step proposal for how colleges can defeat the New Heckler’s Veto.

Suggested Citation

Nary, Charles, The New Heckler's Veto: Shouting Down Speech on University Campuses (2018). University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, Vol. 21, No. 305, 2018. Available at SSRN:

Charles Nary (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania, Law School, Students ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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