Is There Really Free Speech on College Campuses?

June 28, 2015

By Opinion at Daily Commercial

Because freedom of speech is one of our most sacred and essential Constitutional guarantees, you would think any college or university campus would be an environment that would respect that freedom to the fullest of their ability. However, there are examples of that freedom being restricted on many of our college campuses regardless of their size or level of prestige.

One of the more recent and glaring examples of this growing restriction comes to us from the University of California headed by President Janet Napolitano. At meetings of the University of California system, deans and department chairs have been instructed not to use phrases such as “America is the land of opportunity” or “I believe the most qualified person should get the job.” These illustrations are only two on a long list of supposed “microaggressions,” which are construed as examples of subconscious racism. If these examples are racist, then political correctness has just gone off the deep end.

For all of the years I coached, I started the most qualified players on offense and defense regardless of race, creed or color. Why would any employer not want to hire the most qualified person to work for them? If I needed surgery, I want the most qualified doctor I could find and afford to do the operation. The same goes for attorneys, accountants, mechanics, etc. Opinions may vary on who is most qualified but not the premise of attempting to choose the most qualified. And if America is not the land of opportunity, please show me in the annuals of human history a nation that has begun to approach the opportunities of upward mobility and reward that America has provided.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) reported in 2014 that the majority of 427 colleges and universities restricted free speech. To be fair, it should be noted that some of these new restrictions pertain to bullying or sexual harassment. But even in these well-intended areas of protecting people, there are examples of some college zealot over regulating how “sexual harassment” is defined.

We also now have collegiate “safe spaces” where like-minded people can gather and agree to refrain from ridicule or criticism. If college is preparation for real life, someone should tell these graduates they might not find many utopian “safe spaces” in the work place.

The increased push for on-campus limitations for free speech take place in other forms. Check out how many fewer conservative speakers there are at college graduations compared to liberal speakers. Or check to see how many conservative speakers are invited to speak on college campuses for any reason compared to liberal speakers. If these conservatives do speak on campus, they are often heckled and their free speech is stifled. Rarely do I read of similar things happening to liberal speakers.

The liberal leanings of colleges and universities usually dictate campus appointments of tenure, department heads, faculty selection and who gets invited to speak to their students. Far too often, free speech is overly extended to the liberal perspective and suppressed if you are a conservative.

On too many campuses, free speech has become nothing more than an idea.