Opinion: Free Speech Under Assault on College Campuses
Opinion: Free Speech Under Assault on College Campuses
Colleges and universties are supposed to be institutions of higher learning. They should be bastions of free speech, where our children — where our future leaders — can go to not only continue their education but express their ideas without fear of repercussions. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. Free speech zones are disappearing or being moved to remote parts of the campus. Some schools have instituted rules that allow for anonymous complaints to be made that can lead to disciplinary action being taken against a student for what he might have said. As USA Today said in an article about the newest rules at the University of Michigan, “Take a close look at some of the university’s speech policies and you may feel like you’ve been transported back to East Germany or the USSR (Soviet Union), where these regimes quashed dissent and were constantly listening for any contrary point of view.”
The University of Michigan is far from the first school to take a stand that puts severe limits on free speech. However, it is a prime example of just how deep the cancer is that runs through our country right now. A chill ran down my spine when I read the USA Today article because it very well might be a precursor to what happens if we don’t take a stand and do so NOW, before any more time passes.
I know there are some out there wondering what can be so wrong with a university taking a stand against hate speech. The problem is Michigan’s policies go further than hate speech. Even if limited to it, what is “hate speech”? Who defines it and is that definition written in stone? The answer to the former is the board of regents and whoever else they say has the authority to do so. The answer to the latter is a resounding “no!”
There is no definite answer for what hate speech is. However, the most common definition is that it is, “speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits.” Most people would agree such speech should be discouraged. However, in this day and age of the perpetually offended, schools like the University of Michigan have gone so much further in their attempts to “protect” their students.
Perhaps more telling is the fact so many people have their own definition of what hate speech happens to be. Is denying the Holocaust ever happened hate speech or not? What about saying all men are scum? We know using the “N” word is considered hate speech. What about calling someone “cracker”?
In warning conservative students to beware, USA Today states, “UM campus conduct guide includes a “bias response team” that encourages students to report instances of speech they find offensive or troublesome. And guess what? They are relaying plenty of so-called abuses — anything that rubs against a campus culture that bows to political correctness.”
So what does UM say? According to the USA Today article, “UM defines bias as being both intentional and unintentional and that ‘the most important indication of bias is your own feelings.’” Okay. So even if you don’t think it or mean it, you’re guilty. Wow. Thought police anyone?
What is truly scary about this is the way UM encourages students to report on one another but, due to their ability to do so anonymously, the accused student is effectively denied the right to confront his or her accusers. How the hell are you supposed to prove you didn’t do something if you can’t face the person saying you did and point out the inaccuracies — or even falsehoods — of their story? Instead, you might as well bow your head and say, “Yes, Comrade, I did think those evil thoughts against the good of the People and will accept my one way trip to the Gulag.”
But it isn’t only at the University of Michigan where such limitations are occurring. In Texas, the concern has reached all the way to the state capital where lawmakers have begun looking at ways to stop the ever narrowing window of free speech. Virginia, Arizona and other states are also concerned about the current trend.
Where do we as parents and alumni draw the line? Where do we tell the universities it is time to stop their overreaching? College should be a time when our children are encouraged to express their ideas and learn how to debate the issues. Instead, they are being told bad think won’t be allowed. Bad think, of course, is defined by the administration and by the vocal minority. Wait for the knock on your door and report for indoctrination, Comrade, you have proven to be a Conservative in thought, if not in deed.
Or do we wait for more incidents like the ones seen on campuses protesting planned appearances by people like Milo Yiannopoulos’ or Ann Coulter? Bad think isn’t allowed but destruction of property and physical injury is excused because they were protesting the “bad think”. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but I was taught to think for myself and to understand that words might hurt but they could also be fought against with reason and logic and intelligence. But how do you fight back if you aren’t allowed to speak? Maybe we, as libertarians and conservatives, should take a page out of the book of the other side?
(No, I’m not advocating violence, but the double-standard is something we should be concerned about.)
This issue is one we need to continue not only watching but speaking out against. This is the first of several posts on it that will appear this week here at Victory Girls. Next time, we’ll take a closer look at the law suit filed against the University of Michigan, as well as the university’s history of limiting free speech on campus. Until then, if you have children or other relatives in college, ask them what their schools are doing to guarantee freedom of speech and the free exchange of ideas. It might scare you as much as it does me to find out just what those schools are doing to discourage something they should be vocal advocates for.