College Kids Don’t Understand the First Amendment, Hate It Anyway
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Last spring, I wrote about college students hating free speech. At the time, I didn’t have a good answer to explain why 22 percent of college students believe that “colleges should prohibit biased or offensive speech in the furtherance of a positive learning environment.” Students are done a disservice when administrators promote “safe spaces” and systems to report microaggressions for situations where students face speech they don’t like or can’t handle.
But now, I think that that 22% of American students just don’t understand the freedoms protected by the First Amendment – and they hate it because it’s the cool thing to do.
If you haven’t seen the news coverage, countless protests have taken place around the country that are, essentially, against free speech. The irony abounds.
Most recently, Jake Goldberg, a Tufts University sophomore, proposing a sweeping free speech resolution to the campus community, was viciously attacked and maligned on social media by peers who suggest he’s only lobbying for free speech so he can be free to say racist and oppressive things. This is often the tactic taken by those looking to limit freedom. They take the most vile example to become the argument that those advocating for freedom are fighting for.
Tufts University has some of the most restrictive free speech policies in the country, and Goldberg’s resolution calls for an end to campus anti-free speech rules. These rules include vague administrative provisos that crack down on the “use of nicknames,” “hurtful words,” “bias-fueled jokes,” “comments on an individual’s body or appearance,” “innuendos of a sexual nature,” and “gender bias.”
Goldberg created the resolution on behalf of a new organization he co-created called Students Advocating for Students. But many students reacted to the resolution in fits of online rage. Using social media and campus email, students called him every NSFW/K name imaginable.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, ensuring that there is no prohibition on the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble, or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.
How can these students not understand the concept of free speech, and how it’s protected by the First Amendment, when they immediately “peacefully assemble,” or protest, when they’re met with ideas that they don’t like?
In an age where censorship is running rampant on college campuses, students need to realize that it’s their freedom that is at stake – the freedom to say, write and think what they want.