My undermines our college experience, leads to an authoritarian

My generation has been taught from a very young age to discourage bullying and to protect others against intolerant or offensive speech. While taking a stand against bullying is admirable, this concept can be taken to an extreme and lead to the suppression of our first amendment right to freedom of speech. There are certainly many examples of hateful and disturbing public speech, but if people are not allowed to freely express themselves, it will lead to a country where the open exchange of ideas is discouraged. We live in an age of political correctness in which one might feel afraid to voice an opinion that goes against the current culture. However, if we are unwilling to tolerate differing opinions, our free society will fall apart. It is vitally important for college administrators, professors, and students to understand the importance of free speech on campuses. If there are limits to this right, it undermines our college experience, leads to an authoritarian society, and halts social change. I have been reading about college students who have maligned and acted violently toward campus speakers who they did not agree with or considered offensive. Many universities have cancelled speakers and disciplined staff as well as students for expressing ideas that go against the mainstream culture. Middlebury College and the University of California at Berkley are two of many who succumbed to the pressure and cancelled controversial speakers. Other examples of censorship include students who were disciplined because they criticized affirmative action at the University of Colorado, as well as a professor from the University of Kansas who criticized the National Rifle Association. These kinds of actions seem to defeat the whole purpose of going to college in the first place. If we are going to be educated, we need to have the freedom to hear controversial ideas and welcome debates that come from people with different backgrounds and world views. The restriction of free speech undermines that purpose. When we do not allow people to speak just because we find them offensive, there is no chance for dialogue. If we allow others to articulate their point of view and gain an understanding of how they came to believe it, there is a chance at education and understanding. Open dialogue may even lead to persuading someone to think about things in a new and different way. My experience with debating hot button issues in civics class proved to be very frustrating. I felt that some of the people I debated had narrow views that were not based on any research or education, but I still respected their right to have those views. I look forward to being on a campus where thoughts and ideas are researched and discussed so that they can be respectfully debated, rather than shutting someone down just because an offensive thought is expressed. The purpose of going to college is to challenge, expand, and refine our beliefs. We should be going out into the world with minds that are open and questioning, not closed and self-righteous. If college students believe that offensive speech is unprotected by the First Amendment, that view will affect the decisions they make as they move into positions of authority after they graduate. College campuses should be a reflection of the democratic society that we live in. Students should not be limited to a small area where they are allowed to hand out flyers or hold a protest. They should not be disciplined for speaking out about something they believe in, even if it is considered wrong or racist. If universities are free to ban controversial speakers, this will lead to banning any kind of critique or evaluation of social groupings. These kinds of limitations will result in an authoritarian society. Students who are eager to suppress other people’s speech may one day find their own speech being suppressed. As a Christian, I value my right to speak freely about my beliefs, which tend to go against cultural mores. I do not want to end up in a society that forbids me to express my views about premarital sex and the Bible, just because the majority of people tend to disagree with me and even find my beliefs to be offensive. Religious freedom is closely tied to the right of expressing your beliefs to others. If we are not fighting against free speech restrictions, we might find ourselves in a situation one day where our universities and town squares do not allow us to speak out about anything that is important to us. This brings us to the final point, which too many college students do not understand. Restricting free speech will end up halting the social change that so many of us have come to value in our lives. Many of the cherished ideals in our country were once considered offensive, such as gender and racial equality. If it weren’t for the courageous suffragettes in the late 19th century or the brave leaders of the Civil Rights Movement speaking out against the majority view in the 1960’s, these changes would not have taken place. A survey conducted in August of 2017 by John Villasenor, a University of California professor, found that a fifth of undergraduates surveyed say it’s acceptable to use physical force to silence a speaker who makes offensive and hurtful statements. What these students do not understand is that the cure for offensive, hurtful talk should be more speech, not the censorship of speech. It is through more speech that communication and social changes are created. It is through more speech that prejudicial attitudes about minority groups are changed. Colleges and universities are places where these kinds of debates should flourish. That can only happen if our campuses are places where diverse viewpoints are celebrated, and where the First Amendment is honored and put into practice. It really does matter.