Colleges need to do better at efforts to allow free speech on campus. It’s a concern because, in recent years, there have been numerous incidents of Christians and political conservatives who have been blocked from expressing their viewpoints.
We know there are those who lean to the left who argue no such thing is happening — that it’s a myth based only on anecdotal evidence. But anecdotal evidence is about all there is when there aren’t any tools to measure such a thing. What’s more, the anecdotal evidence reported by students and on social media has increased recently.
Some Nebraskans might recall in 2017 when a University of Nebraska-Lincoln student set up a recruitment table for Turning Point USA — a right-wing organization — outside the student union on campus.
The student was ridiculed from several UNL faculty members and graduate students after setting up her table. One graduate student flipped her off and called her a “neo-fascist.” The student ended up being escorted home by police out of fear for her well-being.
Every year since Donald Trump took office, there are social media clips of students wearing Make America Great Again caps getting assaulted. One of the most infamous in 2019 showed a conservative who was hit in the face with a brutal punch at California-Berkeley.
Where is the tolerance? Where is the freedom of ideas that college campuses were known for? Where is the attempt to find truth? Since when does disagreeing with another’s point of view give another the right to shout vulgarities, destroy property or assault another?
In 2019, for example, Republicans at Chico State College were attacked by some who disagreed with their political beliefs. In another incident last year in California, the former president of the Sacramento State College Republicans was physically attacked by another student.
Some colleges have enacted policies or regulations that prohibit or punish certain types of speech. While there might be good intent with such legislation, it becomes a slippery slope when college administrators and faculty start to determine what is demeaning, uncivil or discriminatory. In addition, only some groups are afforded such protections.
Part of a strong First Amendment requires active participation and defense of free speech. That isn’t always easy. And it’s not always comfortable.
It is time for all professors and all media to move beyond picking out favorite causes and allow all types of dissenting opinions. And if we the people don’t speak up, it will keep getting worse. Someday it may even be gone.