Let the Students Speak: The Importance of Free Speech on College Campuses

Let the Students Speak: The Importance of Free Speech on College Campuses

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Ah, the freedom of speech. Outlined in our nation’s Constitution and considered one of the most fundamental of all human rights, it gives us the ability to express ourselves without government interference, restraint, or suppression (“Freedom of Speech: An Overview”). Free speech is practiced by all types of American citizens, from the teenage girl posting a picture of a Starbucks cup on Instagram to the riled adult handing out fliers for a political cause. Every form of expression, ranging from the frivolous to the meaningful and the agreeable to the controversial, is protected by this significant and irreplaceable liberty. With this in mind, freedom of speech should surely be guaranteed in all corners of our nation.
Unfortunately, that is not the case. There are places where the freedom of speech is censored and repressed by strict regulation and high-ranking officials. Things spoken or posted online are scrutinized, and individuals who express views deemed unpopular or inappropriate are swiftly punished. This oppression of liberty happens in the most unexpected place where free thought and discussion are supposed to be protected and promoted: our colleges and universities.
In most campuses, speech codes are enforced. Students can get into trouble for what they say, what they post on Facebook, and even what they wear. Schools like Colorado College won’t allow embarrassing statements to be said about other students. Certain jokes or “inappropriate e-mails” are banned, and at times, the area where students are allowed to express themselves amount to a miniscule free speech zone, such as in the University of Cincinnati. Davidson College even prohibits students from asking other students out on dates. (“What Every Student Should ...


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...the idea that questioning authority figures is wrong and prohibited.
Colleges regularly houses future innovators, inventors, leaders, and pioneers of discovery. This is because institutions of higher education attract intellectuals, people who are willing to spend years and thousands of dollars to learn and utilize their acquired knowledge in the real world. If colleges cease being havens of free thought, free expression, and the free exchange of ideas, then the graduates they churn out will simply be robotic individuals shackled by a restricted and suppressed mind. There can’t be change in the world without people who want to do so. C. Van Woodward says it best. "The history of intellectual growth and discovery clearly demonstrates the need for unfettered freedom, the right to think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable.”



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