The college campus used to be a place for young minds to be exposed to new ideas in an atmosphere where free speech and free thought were encouraged and protected, but today the prognosis for free speech is terminal — especially if it contains so-called hate speech.
Children in American society today are being raised to care more about their feelings and less about the things they need to know about life. Instead of free-thinkers, college campuses have become the “safe space” for a generation of hypersensitive “snowflakes” who believe that sticks and stones may break their bones, but offensive words and politically incorrect opinions cause certain death.
With the help of organizations such as the Safe Space Network, a site moderated by a host of self-identified individuals who are pan-sexual, gender queer, and cisgendered — the politically correct way of identifying with your biological gender — censorious crybabies have created safe-space zones on campuses across America where they are protected from hearing things that don’t agree with their politically correct attitudes about culture and so-called values; particularly when it pertains to LGBT issues.
The Safe Space Network describes a safe space as follows:
“A place where anyone can relax and be able to fully express, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, religious affiliation, age, or physical or mental ability.”
In other words, it’s a place where you can’t talk about anything that might hurt someone’s feelings.
In the fall of 2016, a survey was released showing that half the college students in America approved of limits on their speech and the speech of their professors. And even more of them said that schools should monitor the speech of speakers who come to campus and ban them if they used unacceptable hate speech.
The feelings of the respondents to this survey were manifested a few months later when riots broke out at UC Berkeley in February 2017 against former Breitbart editor, Milo Yiannopoulous, and protestors against his appearance held signs that read, “Hate Speech is not Free Speech.”
We witnessed it again in April 2017 when so-called conservative Ben Shapiro gave a speech at the University of Florida. During the protest against Shapiro’s appearance, a professor at the university participating in the protest held up a sign that read, “Hate Speech Kills.”
Also in April 2017, an event at UC Berkeley featuring Ann Coulter was cancelled by sponsors of her appearance — Berkley College Republicans, BridgeCal, and Young America’s Foundation — after students threatened another round of rioting and violence if she spoke.
For the record, I’m not a fan of any of these speakers. They are faux conservative Trumpists. But they’re just as entitled to free speech as the snowflakes who are trying to shut them down.
Following these events, the Brookings Institute conducted a new poll and it showed, ironically, that 20 percent of college students were willing to use violence to silence anyone they feel says “offensive and hurtful” things. This number included 22 percent of those who identified as Republican.
Additionally, nearly 40 percent of students surveyed believed hate speech should NOT be protected by the First Amendment, proving how the absence of teaching the Constitution and American history is quickly evolving into a serious threat to free speech.
Snowflakes aren’t just found on the Far-Left. Trump snowflakes are just as real and just as much of a threat to free speech as their counterparts. These so-called conservatives have sought to silence so-called hate speech whenever it has been directed at their orange messiah.
In May 2017, a private college in Indiana was offering an elective class called “Trumpism & US Democracy” that described Trump as a purveyor of “sexism, white supremacy, xenophobia, nationalism, nativism and imperialism.” Right on cue, so-called conservatives rallied the troops.
This anti-free speech movement on America’s college campuses has prompted RealClearEducation.com to launch the College Free Speech Rankings, with an interactive website where parents and students can see how schools they’re interested in stack up in the free speech department.
This has the potential to be a useful tool, but in an op-ed about the new ranking system by Nathan Harden on TheCenterSquare.com, we see how the prognosis for free speech on college campuses is terminal.
The rankings are based on a survey of nearly 20,000 students at 55 schools across the country. The survey reveals some startling facts. Almost 20% of students say that using violence to stop an unwanted speech or event is in some cases acceptable. Among Ivy League students, 36% said that it was “always” or “sometimes” acceptable to shout down a speaker one doesn’t like.
Self-censorship is also a major problem. Sixty percent of college students say they have kept quiet due to fear of how others would respond. Among conservative students, that number is 72%.
Besides the chilling effect this is having on students, the op-ed shows us how professors have become so intimidated by the “safe space” movement that they are choosing not to challenge students to think for themselves.
Colleges have become perilous places to express unpopular ideas. Professors and students fear being shouted down, shunned, or, in some cases, fired or expelled. This has a chilling effect on the classroom.
Jonathan Haidt, a professor at New York University, frames the problem this way: “At my university we have a ‘bias response line.’ Students are encouraged to anonymously report anyone who says anything that offends them. So, as a professor, I no longer take risks; I must teach to the most easily offended student in the class. I therefore avoid saying or doing anything provocative. My classes are less fun and engaging.”
Harden concludes his op-ed with these words:
The College Free Speech Rankings paint a clear picture of the speech crisis on America’s colleges and universities. Most schools are failing to protect open inquiry, academic freedom, and free speech. The good news is that now, for the first time, students and parents have a tool they can use to find out which colleges and universities are doing a better job of living up to those ideals.
That is good news.
But when you consider how free speech has already been systematically dismantled, and how both Republicans and Democrats have worked hand-in-hand to silence politically incorrect free speech, I’m not all that optimistic about the College Free Speech Rankings’ ability to change anything.
I hope I’m wrong.
David Leach is the owner of the Strident Conservative. He holds people of every political stripe accountable for their failure to uphold conservative values, and he promotes those values instead of political parties.