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The Dissolution of Free Speech on College Campuses

BY SAMANTHA BERTEN

July 11, 2017 1:23PM

Colleges are intended to be intellectual spaces where opposing ideologies and figures can discuss their ideas. The intention of having these debates and opposing viewpoints is to expand mindsets, and to allow students to grow from stimulating intellectual conversation. However, on many college campuses nowadays the guest speakers, lecturers, and events often mirror the majority opinion of students. Instead of taking the risk of inviting speakers who would present another side to the same argument, students are often told the same position ad nauseam.

This sheltering of ideas on college campuses was discussed in detail on June 20th in a Senate Hearing focusing on Free Speech on college campuses. Senator Ted Cruz quoted a study that stated, “(a) majority of college students believe the climate on their campus has prevented people from saying what they believe”. This is unfortunately often the case on many college campuses, wherein, opposing ideas are dismissed or silenced. Constitutional lawyer Floyd Abrams stated that the only reason a university should ever keep a certain representative from speaking is if there were to be a “more than a credible threat,” which creates a threshold the universities should adhere to. Additionally, Senator Sasse put the blame on administrators stating, “(they should) actually go out and offer a full-throated defense of the first amendment, not just in legal particularity, but also in terms of the spirit of a liberal arts education”.

It is critical that university administrators stand up for first amendment rights as Senator Sasse is urging because, by allowing for intellectual discourse they are providing exactly what their institution promised for their students- an intellectually stimulating and challenging environment for them to grow as people.

It is impossible to create a strong argument without also understanding the opinions of those who oppose you. By sheltering students universities are actively choosing to weaken the education they provide in exchange for a perceived notion of student safety. The essence of a university is to be an intellectual center where ideas can be discussed freely, to limit such discourse is a direct affront to the intellectual community and to the fundamental foundations which universities are intended to stand upon.