Free Speech on College Campuses: President Obama Advocates for Less Oversensitivity

September 16, 2015

By Editorial at University Herald

President Barack Obama addressed free speech on the college campus at a recent event in Iowa, stating he supports higher education being considered a place where arguments should take place with little to no regulation on what can or cannot be said.

According to The Huffington Post, Obama was in Des Moines for a town hall meeting at a local high school when he fielded a question relating to what is often called “the new political correctness.” In his response, the President said he remembers college as a place where he often changed his perspective and challenged others’ as well.

“When I went to college, suddenly there some people who didn’t think at all like me and if I had an opinion about something, they’d look at me and say, ‘well that’s stupid,’ and then they’d describe how they saw the world,” he told the crowd. “Sometimes their views would be infuriating to me, but it was because there was this space where you could interact with people who didn’t agree with you and had different backgrounds than you that I then started testing my own assumptions and sometimes I changed my mind.”

The issue of oversensitivity on college campuses has noticeably flared up of late, especially with comedians such as Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld publicly stating they feel like they cannot perform their material in such a setting.

Another issue well documented by The HP has been groups of students that move to “uninvite” speakers due to past comments that can be seen as controversial. In addition to The HP, publications and organizations like The Associated Press and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) have addressed the growing trend of “uninviting.”

“We’re very glad to see that President Obama shares our concerns about the danger of trigger warnings, speaker disinvitations, and campus censorship,” Robert Shibley, executive director of FIRE, told The HP. “We hope that colleges across the country – and federal agencies like the Department of Education – take his words to heart when they’re crafting policies that affect free expression.”

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