I’ve been following a discussion on Twitter concerning free speech. Not a lot, or in depth because I’m attempting to spend a lot less time on that platform that I used to, but a few minutes here, a few minutes there, during the day, I’ve noticed an extended dialogue on this very important topic in my mind. I didn’t peruse the thread as I normally would have, but I think I read enough, scrolling through, to get the gist of what was being said. MAybe not, but instead of participating there, I thought I may throw my two cents in here.
It’s not an easy subject to tackle. Yes, here in the United States we have a constitutionally protected right to free speech that no other country has. Other countries, as we all know, have enacted laws against hate speech which is very slippery in my mind because what one person may consider unlawful speech, another may not. That’s why there are no such laws here in the U.S. even though there seems to be a growing percentage of the population that would be okay for restrictions to speech. There are already restrictions but those are to protect life. No one may directly incite violence against another person or group of people without consequences.
There’s a lot of different areas that the concept of free speech may be considered, but I’d like to focus here on the same on college and university campuses. It seems, at least to me, that in the past decade or more, the concept of free speech has become less a priority for many of these institutions of higher learning. on campus, most especially to those that hold conservative viewpoints. That’s right, free speech on college campuses seems to be only available to those that profess a liberal or progressive point of view. There may be instances where they, too, have been prevented from holding events, but it seems I never read about any of those.
I’m so old I recall when debating ideas on campus was welcome, even encouraged. Not so much anymore and what we, the public see are orchestrated attempts to silence any point of view, by a minority by the way, that doesn’t believe that a contrary view to what appears in some cases to be religiously held beliefs by some, are validated. Universities have not seemed to make any attempt to rectify the situation and in fact, in some instances, have required conservative student groups to pay enormous amounts of money for security, in the event that violence breaks out. that’s right, violence. Instead of having the campus police protect the event, it seems they want to protect those that would disrupt, even to the point of violent confrontation.
There are no laws that would protect any of these groups to their right of speech on campus, other than those of assault. Just disrupting an event is not illegal. In fact, those students disrupting are exercising their free speech to the detriment of others with a different viewpoint, and universities and colleges are loathe to make any stand for protections of speech for all. It’s really interesting that those who do not stand up for speech for all do not seem to be the least embarrassed by the video or the stories of their institutions allowing these incidents to occur. It hasn’t seemed to hurt their bottom line, revenue, which seems to be all they are interested in preserving. That may be changing sooner rather than later.
On March 2nd this year, President Trump gave a speech at the yearly CPAC (Conservative Political Action Convention) where at one point he addressed these situations on campus, pointing directly to the recent assault of a conservative student, caught on video, at Berkeley . In that address he mentioned he was considering an Executive Order to protect speech of all students on campus with those not abiding the order, to lose their access to federal grants. Yearly, the federal government dispense billions in grant money to colleges and universities. If implemented, this could affect programs at some institutions for years, even killing some of the same.
I’m conflicted about this idea of punishing the majority on campus, for the acts of a few. It’s a bad precedent to set because a future administration could use the same reasoning to force colleges and universities to implement their pet projects. Oh wait! That’s already happened, hasn’t it? I recall the letter going out from the Obama Administration, known as the Dear Colleague Letter, advising them to do more about sexual assault on campus. This led, of course, to the kangaroo courts at colleges and universities that more imitated North Korean justice. than U.S.
Is there a way for the government to encourage campuses to protect the speech of all students without a threat of removing some funding? IT seems that in society today, we often approach similar problems with a carrot-and-stick approach. Will we see an Executive Order by the administration addressing fre speech on campus as outlined by the President, or is the threat of one enough to start these institutions, moving on their own? I tend to be less optimistic that without the stick, nothing will change.