Speech on College Campuses: Free or Censored?

FREE SPEECH - and Snowflakes (college campus)

by Diane Rufino, February 4, 2018

Parents, take notice. If your children are heading to college, you’ll want to know what crazies they might encounter – and I’m talking about college professors and college administrators !

My daughter is currently in her last year at UNC-Greensboro, arguably a very liberal college. It has a history of suppressing conservative speech while encouraging the most extreme of liberal speech. She is taking a course on how to communicate ethically and they are now talking about the First Amendment and Free Speech. To address that topic, the professor assigned a chapter out of a book to read about “Free Speech on College Campus” which argues that freedom of speech is important but that people want to limit it on campuses to respect the feelings of certain people and certain groups. The assignment is for students to write a paper to articulate their opinion on what position the college should take. She called me last night to talk about the First Amendment. She knew I would enjoy that conservation !!

First of all, as I told my daughter, I believe any course on such a topic should start off by discussing what the First Amendment recognizes, what it means to have the right of “Free Speech,” and why this right is so important in a free society. This alone is a very important civic lesson. She agreed.

We talked for awhile and then she hung up to work on her paper. A short while later, she texted me to review some of the points she made in her paper:

If we limit speech so as not to hurt people’s feelings then it isn’t really “free speech,” is it? And if a college limits it, then it teaches a bad lesson – that it doesn’t respect the First Amendment’s guarantee.. that freedom is not alive and thriving on that campus. There are other bad messages implied in limiting speech on college campuses: A campus that does so doesn’t treat it’s students as mature; it treats them as children. Also, it doesn’t help prepare its students for their place in the real world. Colleges can’t call themselves bastions of learning when they don’t allow students to listen to all opinions, articulate their responses, apply lessons and information they’ve learned, and push the bounds of their viewpoints. A person can never really know deeply they hold an opinion until they hear all other views and are forced to talk about it and defend it. An open forum provides this.

I am so proud of the fact that she “gets it,” and that she isn’t so fragile that she needs the speech that reaches her ears to be limited and those who want to speak to have to self-censor themselves. She is confident in herself, in what she believes, and in her ability to discern that most speech, in fact, is intended for other reasons other than to hurt someone’s feelings. I am proud that she is not a snowflake.

In a country so obsessed with civil liberties, how are even entertaining this absurd notion that speech on college campuses should be limited to protect feelings?

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