The free exchange of ideas and debate are the foundation of academia. When ideas are heard and challenged, students have the opportunity to learn and grow. Generations of young scholars sharpened their wits debating their classmates. Today, this tradition and its educational benefits are under attack across America. In the name of shielding hypersensitive millennials from the pain of debate, disagreement, and hurt feelings, university administrators are cracking down on free speech. It is time to push back against this encroachment.
Speech codes at modern universities go far beyond constitutional limits on speech, such as libel and slander. Hurt feelings are all it takes for legally protected speech to violate university policy. Academic administrators use catch all definitions that can be contorted to include almost anything. Labeling a hyper sensitive, perpetually offended student a special snowflake could be interpreted as creating a hostile atmosphere. That’s enough to get student suspended on some campuses. Don’t even think about phrases like “suck it up, buttercup!”
It doesn’t matter where the speech occurs. Universities try to police all student speech. Did you post a controversial opinion on Facebook? Or retweet Mike Cernovich and Ann Coulter? Or vocally support the President’s wall at a party. If the wrong person is physically present or sees it online, you could be in violation. All that matters to the university disciplinary committee is that snowflake ran to them crying.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (the FIRE) litigates cases more ridiculous than anything implied here every year. As of this writing, only one college in Colorado – Western State – has a good rating from the FIRE. Every other has at least one significant threat to free speech. This is unacceptable and betrays the spirit of college.
As a student at a college with a problematic speech code, I am excited by Tim Neville’s efforts to protect free speech. I am remaining anonymous because my college speech policy has extremely loose definitions. The wording is so broad and vague that my stereotypes of students could be twisted into an offense. The environment created by this ambiguity and looming threat is unhealthy and profoundly contradicts the values of academia. In a rational world, expressing this opinion should not be cause for concern. Senate Bill 17-062 will be a major step towards restoring reason and common sense to Academia.
The Deplorable Doctoral Candidate is an engineer, climate skeptic, entrepreneur, critic of academia, and occasional blogger. You can follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DepPhDcandidate