Last week, I posted a detailed summary of what students experienced at the Third Annual CFN Summer Conference. In a similar vein, American University student and CFN member Irena Schneider has recently posted to Students for Liberty’s blog a summary of her thoughts: “Why Care About Free Speech?—Thoughts from a Terrific FIRE Conference.”
As I reflect, I think that we can never impress upon ourselves enough the deep-seated importance of free speech in the life of the academy and ultimately, of society itself. Abuses of students’ rights to freely express themselves are not mere nuisances in the speech codes found in our universities. They are, in the deepest sense, an insult to human intelligence and advancement. The purpose of a university is to provide a forum for the free exchange of ideas. Some ideas can be dangerous, but nothing is more dangerous than their inhibition.
Irena discusses administrators’ efforts to use campus speech codes to protect students from unkind words and to engage in thought reform for people holding viewpoints they find disagreeable. Labeling these efforts a “travesty and an insult to what makes us productive students and human beings,” she instead asks for a free marketplace of ideas where universities “let us insult and be insulted, let us have our feelings hurt, let us laugh, let us be complete idiots, let us write outrageous columns.”
Irena proposes that students have their ideas put up to criticism and attack, to be tried and found wanting or tried and found true:
Administrators: Let us think. We’re strong enough to be human and to live in liberty.
The post is well worth reading in full here.