The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states “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.”
Freedom of Speech is something we understand as a guarantee in America. It is a right given to us by God, that the government will never infringe on. Unfortunately, college campuses, once a haven for free speech in America, are becoming less free.
In a recent Gallup poll, 61% of college students say the campus climate prevents students from saying what they believe for fear of offending people. They also said the people who are most likely to be silenced are likely political conservatives.
— GallupNews (@GallupNews) March 12, 2018
It’s nice to see that college students are at least acknowledging that their peers, specifically conservatives, are being silenced.
However, what may be more disturbing is the trend in favor of prioritizing an inclusive society over freedom of speech. Only 56% of students believe protecting free speech rights is extremely important in a democracy, while 52% said the same about promoting an inclusive society welcoming of diverse groups. When they were asked which is more important, they actually voted 53% to 46% in favor of inclusive environment over freedom of speech.
Other worrisome responses include 49% of students favoring campus speech codes, which restrict speech according to arbitrary administrative rules. 10% of students believe it’s at least sometimes acceptable to use violence to shut down speakers, and 37% say “shouting” to silence others is acceptable.
College campuses used to be leaders of civil rights and freedom of speech for groups that were being silenced. The University of California, Berkeley was the site of a massive student-led civil rights protest, called the Free Speech Movement, in the 1960’s. Sadly, Berkely is now one of the leaders in stifling free speech, and it looks like many other schools around the country are following suit.
Colleges are supposed to be the places where our ideas are challenged in order to learn and grow. But when students aren’t able to speak their minds out of fear, it’s impossible to challenge your way of thinking. Many college students have been so coddled their entire lives that they’re prioritizing comfort over their own rights. Unfortunately, if Americans take this God-given right to freedom of speech for granted, we risk losing it altogether.
In the past, college students have led the charge on many major policy issues that would later come to fruition. Let’s hope this is not one of them.