Over the past year and a half, the American university has devolved from a space of discourse and debate into an overly-censored arena of “inclusivity.” In the name of diversity, sensitivity, and safety, campuses across the country are subjected to archaic and unconstitutional rules that limit the open exchange of ideas. Make no mistake, college campuses are no longer areas of learning where students are challenged in their ideas. Instead, campuses are liberal echo chambers where political correctness reigns supreme, and dissenting ideas are unwelcome.
The First Amendment, which grants everyone the right to speak their mind freely, reads as follows:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
This is one of the most important sentences in American law, second only to the Second Amendment. That sentence assures that you and I are able to voice our opinions and grievances towards whoever we please without facing legal punishment. This is especially important on college campuses, because college students are (usually) paying exorbitant amounts of money to be taught and challenged in a space that promotes diversity of opinion. When my parents went to college, that was undoubtedly the case; however, that is sadly not the case today.
Today, free speech is stifled on campus by restrictive polices, censorship, and extreme political correctness.
Let me begin by enumerating the restrictive policies that were mentioned above. One could argue that the best way to smother free speech is through policy and legislation, and they would be right. One of these policies is free speech zones. Free speech zones are tiny areas on college campuses that are designated for the free exchange of ideas. If one tries to pass out literature, promote a certain group, or exchange other students in debate outside of these zones, they are usually admonished. Here are a few examples:
There is currently a pending lawsuit between Brittany Mirelez and Paradise Valley Community College. According to Campus Reform, Mirelez is suing the college after she was “evicted by administrators who claimed she had failed to properly comply with PVCC’s burdensome notification process.”
Students at Dixie State, located in Utah, sued their school last year over oppressive free speech zones. According to The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education or FIRE, “alleges that Dixie State refused to approve promotional flyers produced by the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) student group that featured images negatively portraying Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara.”
Mirelez and the students at Dixie State are not alone in their plight. A FIRE infographic shows that 1 in 6 schools have repressive free speech zones. FIRE also points to a lawsuit that they entered into in 2012 with the University of Cincinnati, stating that UC’s free speech zones comprised “just 0.1% of the university’s 137-acre West Campus.”
There are many more lawsuits that fit the same mold. The clear trend is that free speech zones, which unconstitutionally restrict free speech to tiny patches of land on campus, are destroying free speech. One question that surfaces when discussing free speech is often: what about the protesters? Yes, what about the protesters? Why do they receive immunity for their bombastic displays? There have been many national protests, including the Million Student March and the protests after the events in Ferguson, Missouri. The Million Student March was a protest that focused on income inequality, calling for a $15 minimum wage, among other demands. The protests marched through college campuses across the nation, outside of free speech zones, with impunity.
After Ferguson, many protesters affiliated with “Occupy SLU” gathered and squatted on Saint Louis University’s campus for an extended period of time. Where were the campus administrators to kick them off Saint Louis University’s property? The protesters posed a physical threat to students who actually went to class and the university remained disgustingly inactive.
Free speech is important to both liberals and conservatives, and both should be concerned about the path of this country. Make no mistake, free speech is being stamped out on college campuses, and that should absolutely terrify you.