Academia does not want faculty to realize this, but free speech protects professors and their ability to educate and explore ideas. I fight for freedom of speech on my campus as a representative for Students for Free Expression.
From experience on my campus, I see that censorship creates a culture of fear on campus, further polarizing our campus communities. If academia is honest in claiming they are training the leaders of tomorrow, then the leaders of tomorrow have lost the ability to partake in discourse.
The problem, however, extends beyond students. Professors have also seen that censorship is harming campus climates. In a study of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, less than 20% of college faculty strongly agreed with the following statement: “It is safe to hold unpopular opinions on this campus.” This perception has evidence to ensure its validity. Censorship has a horrific impact on university faculty as well. If one wishes to be an honest educator, they must stand up for free speech.
Free Speech Protects Professors from the Thought Police
The story of Jordan Peterson is a well-known one. Dr. Peterson is a professor at the University of Toronto who faced discipline from the university for his opposition to Bill C-16, an explicitly anti-free speech bill. But Dr. Peterson’s story is a dime a dozen. Take the story of Michael Rectenwald, a former NYU professor. Rectenwald, a Marxist, created a twitter account to confront political correctness on his campus. After he went public, he was shunned, bullied, and intimidated into paid leave, moving his office, and eventually, retirement. This bullying technique of the mob is one of many ways that the thought police suppress one’s ability to teach freely.
Gale Isaacs was a professor at Shaw University. Isaacs lamented the hostile culture at the university. The university president proved her point by firing Isaacs. No politics took place in this case. Isaacs simply pointed out that Shaw University has a culture problem. This demonstrates the fragility of the culture on campus. Administrators inherently want power. They want the students and faculty to bend their knee. When a professor criticizes them, the people who censor act with swift retribution to show their power and disregard for free speech.
Can I at least ask a question!?
Now consider the story of Stephen Kershnar, who was denied a promotion at SUNY Fredonia. His performance as a professor played no role in decision-making. Rather, the university president denied him a promotion because he asked whether or not universities mistreat conservatives. To SUNY, even asking questions is not acceptable. This demonstrates how oppressive speech codes can really be.
Professors are Victims of Censorship Too
When a professor promotes a view that is radically different from your own, rejoice. They have expressed themselves, demonstrating the existence of fundamental liberty. Instead of setting up Professor Watchlists, we ought to stand up to the bullies who censor professors and students. Tenure, after all, allows for professors to partake in their study with total freedom. Professors who are lucky enough to have their rights protected should be fighting to secure these rights for students.
If a professor attempts to censor a student, there is another story. First and foremost, they are rejecting fundamental liberty. But above that, these professors are working against their own best interest. Many professors hold controversial opinions. They should be unashamed, unapologetic, and unafraid in expressing these views. In order to do that, however, students must also have these rights. By allowing for freedom of speech for all, we can see more discourse and better education. We owe it to ourselves to speak freely.