Free-Speech-SC

Restricting Free Speech on College Campuses

In the book, Liberal Tyranny in Higher Education, authors David Goetsch and Archie Jones deal with the dismantling of the First Amendment on college campuses.  More particularly we describe how freedom of speech has become a one-way street controlled by liberals who do their best to suppress the opinions, thoughts, and ideas of conservative and Christian students and professors.  Left-leaning professors and administrators are using so-called “free-speech” zones and “speech codes” as their preferred methods for suppressing free speech. In doing so they are violating the First Amendment of the Constitution.

A free speech zone is a designated area in which students who wish to speak out on an issue are allowed to have their say.  But there are some obvious problems with this concept.  First, the entire college campus should be a free speech zone, as should every square inch of the geography that comprises the United States of America.  There is nothing in the Constitution that limits free speech to designated zones or allows institutions to do so.  In fact, just the opposite is true.  With minor exceptions such as falsely yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, there are few restrictions on free speech.

When the liberal professors who came up with this concept were campus radicals in the 1960s they certainly did not allow themselves to be hemmed into free speech zones.  In fact, they took over and occupied entire buildings.  The concept of academic freedom that is the cornerstone of higher education was established to promote, encourage, and protect freedom of speech, not suppress it.  There is no way that colleges and universities can fulfill their obligation to expose students to diverse points of view without not just allowing but encouraging free speech.

A second problem with free speech zones is that many colleges require students who wish to make use of the designated areas to apply in advance and describe what they plan to say.  Students of the Constitution learning of this requirement will immediately ask a pertinent question: “What about the Constitutional prohibition against prior restraint?”  Good question because if they do not like what students plan to say, some colleges have begun to deny them access to free speech zones or, at the very least, limit their access. There are even cases in which the designated free speech zone has been moved to an isolated location when conservative or Christians applied to use it.  Actions such as this are clear violations of the First Amendment, not to mention the concept of academic freedom that every college and university in America claims to subscribe to.

Speech codes are just as bad as so-called free speech zones and perhaps even worse since they are used by colleges to limit what students are allowed to say as well as how they are allowed to say it.  It is as if liberals think they have a constitutional right not to be offended and, of course, almost anything a conservative or Christian says will offend a liberal.  Consider the speech code established at The State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY Buffalo).  On the surface the speech code appeared to do little more than encourage good manners, but the code is a wolf in sheep’s clothing (not to mention that displaying bad manner in speech is an action protected by the First Amendment).  The code makes any speech in residence halls that is not courteous, polite, or mannerly impermissible. Of course, it is the liberals who run the university who decide what is courteous, polite, and mannerly. Rest assured that a Christian student questioning the concept of coed dorms or being required to share a dorm room with an aggressive homosexual would not be considered acceptable no matter how courteous, polite, and mannerly the Christian student might be.

While universities may certainly establish codes of conduct to protect the ability of students to sleep and study in dormitories, restricting all speech in a dormitory to that which is considered by college administrators to be courteous, polite, and mannerly is just one more way of silencing the views of students who do not toe the line of liberal orthodoxy.  With such a speech code in place, any student who happens to voice disagreement with another student’s life style, behavior, personal choices, or opinions could be charged and disciplined.  This, of course, is the reason speech codes have been established by universities in the first place: to suppress any and all speech that runs counter to the preferred narrative of tyrannical administrators and professors.

Since conservative and Christian students who live in college dormitories are going to see plenty of behavior and hear plenty of opinions they disagree with, they are likely to be the most frequent targets of speech code violations. For example, officials at Shippensburg University used provisions in their institution’s speech code to strip a Christian student organization of its rights and privileges because it required members to honor a statement of faith and because it selected its leaders according to its interpretation of Biblical teaching.  Both of these actions clearly violate the Constitutional rights of Christian students.

Two students at Georgia Institute of Technology were subjected to religious discrimination for maintaining a Biblical view of homosexuality, a view that violated the university’s “Safe Space” training program.  The “Safe Space” program ridiculed religions that do not embrace homosexuality except, of course, Islam.  The only views on homosexuality allowed at Georgia Tech appear to be those of students who endorse and approve it. Apparently, homosexual students at Georgia Tech have Constitutional rights but Christian students don’t.

These few examples are representative of what is taking place on college campuses nationwide.  The radical left is persistent and increasingly aggressive in its attempts to silence Christian and conservative speech. Walter Williams summed up this situation in an article entitled, “Ideas on Liberty,” in which he wrote: “Western values are by no means secure.  They are under ruthless attack by the academic elite on college campuses across America.  These people want to replace personal liberty with government control; they want to replace equality with entitlement; they want to halt progress in the name of protecting the environment.  As such they pose a much greater threat to our way of life than any terrorist or rogue nation.”

 

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Jacob "Jake" Steele

Dr. Jacob Steele is a professor of Political Science and the author of numerous books and articles in this field.

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