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The Real Threat To Free Speech On Campus

| May 2, 2019

Free up to a point. (Shutterstock)

Free up to a point. (Shutterstock)

By Gloria Oladipo

The school year may be winding to a close, but the tired argument about “attacks on free speech” on college campuses is alive as ever.

According to Donald Trump, liberal universities like Berkeley are allowing conservative students to be “assaulted” for sharing their beliefs on campus. To combat such violations, Trump signed an executive order requiring colleges to “protect free speech” or risk losing federal education funding.


I’m delighted to alert Trump and all those with similar concerns that free speech on campus, on both sides of the political aisle, is doing just fine — to a point.

College campuses, now more than ever, are home to a variety of organizations with differing political views: pro-Democratic and pro-Republican organizations, Students for Justice in Palestine and Students Supporting Israel, as well as other organizations with conflicting viewpoints.

More specifically, college campuses are fairly accommodating spaces for conservative students.

To date, no campus has banned any form of Trump paraphernalia, nor has any college persecuted a student for wearing pro-Trump symbols. College campuses routinely host conservative speakers: Cornell hosted Dick Cheney, while the University of Baltimore had Betsy DeVos speak at their commencement ceremony, among other examples.

Outside organizations actively use their influence to make sure conservative students have their perspectives represented. Many conservative organizations are well funded by Republican politicians and wealthy Republican families.

Additionally, conservative news outlets such as Breitbart and the National Review regularly publish articles demonizing universities they say aren’t doing enough to protect their version of “free speech,” which appears to mean shielding campus conservatives from any kind of criticism or protest.

other-wordsWhen the president and other conservatives talk about the precarious state of free speech, they’re often referring to efforts to stop hateful speech on campuses.

They’re angry that Milo Yiannopoulos wasn’t allowed to speak at Berkeley when he was planning to out undocumented students, putting them at risk of deportation. They’re angry that a student organization from Cornell University canceled conservative speaker Jannique Stewart because of her blatant homophobia.

College campuses have always been willing to host dialogue, even when it’s difficult. However, the president’s and other conservatives’ demand that outside speakers be permitted to freely antagonize the most marginalized students on their own college campuses shows a complete disregard for the safety and humanity of students.

So is free speech in jeopardy? Yes, but not in the way that conservatives traditionally conceive it.

Contrary to the usual story, many leftists within universities are persecuted for their beliefs. Lisa Durden, a black professor formerly at Essex Community College, was fired after defending a black-only Black Lives Matter event on Fox News. Jim Stump, a former professor at Bethel College, was fired for defending evolution compared to the university’s predominantly creationist beliefs.

Trump’s executive order itself — and the outside intimidation that conservative publications exert on students — represents an actual attack on free speech. Student groups, often made up of people of color and other marginalized demographics, are constantly demonized for organizing to stop hate in their communities. While conservative students speak freely, those in opposition to homophobes and racists are silenced.

Free speech, including hateful speech, has consequences — including freely spoken responses of anger and protest from others. Students shouldn’t be expected to be idle in response to hate speech.

Instead of shaming and censoring progressive students, more should be done to protect those who protest, fighting against hate and for their own humanity.

Gloria Oladipo is a sophomore at Cornell University and a permanent resident of Chicago. She can be found @gaoladipo.


7 Responses for “The Real Threat To Free Speech On Campus”

  1. Traveling Rep says:

    Trump 20/20!!! MAGA

    All aboard the Trump Train!

  2. beachcomberT says:

    The author cites just two cases to prove her argument that progressive professors are stifled more than conservative ones. I would prefer to have nationwide stats gathered by ACLU, Chronicle of Higher Education or a similar organization. Last year’s virtual state of emergency at UF in Gainesville suggests to me that far-right speakers have less “freedom of speech” than their far-left counterparts.

  3. Pogo says:

    @Another Republican straw man

    The Republican complaints about liberal professors and liberal indoctrination are a well financed straw man propaganda campaign targeted at the resentment of old white men losing their privileged position to crap on the rest of the world. Of course the aforementioned is a small number, so the arguments are also, and mainly, aimed at the anger and resentment of the white men who don’t have – never had – any advantage and/or privilege either.

    Being born male, and white, are an advantage compared to others, but really, a steadily smaller advantage over time. But many of those white men resent progress by others as a loss to them, instead of a gain for all. So the truly privileged white men, who almost all pass through the elite academies they criticize, finance a vanity press, and all manner of other proprietary agency, e.g., think tanks, that arise entirely upon sheer wealth rather than success gained by true merit and the popularity it achieves.

    So here we are – chickens voting for Col. Sanders – while he tells us “we” are all in this together.

    Wake up. Pay attention. Stop. Electing. Republicans.

  4. That one guy says:

    First off, the author of this “article” fails to address the issue at hand. Violence from the far left toward those with differing opinions. She spews nothing but rhetoric and talking points with little to no factual substance to even attempt to back up her opinions.

    Please show me one campus where the liberal students are shaming and assaulting people wearing a red hat or expressing an opposing view. I can count on one hand the amount of videos and factual reports that talk about a conservative student using violence toward a differing opinion, yet I would need a stadium of people to cover the other-side’s irrational and animalistic behavior. And this is only talking about campuses, lets not even bring up just being out in public showing your support for anything conservative, or even a less than liberal extremist point of view.

  5. ASF says:

    Bill Maher, a comedian known for his support for Progressive candidates like Bernie Sanders and his utter contempt for Donald Trump and the MAGA crowd, had a vicious campaign mounted against his appearance at a California University graduation event because of ONE statement he made that Progressives took exception to. They, like their Far Right Doppelganger counter-parts, have elected themselves the sole arbitors of who should be allowed to publicly air their views and what they should be allowed to say–and their methods and tone are strikingly similar to the zealots that comprise their opposition. Both extreme ends of our political spectrum need to work on expanding their tolerance levels and improving their abilities to respect boundaries while managing adult and open-minded expressions of their beliefs.

  6. Traveling Rep says:

    Fascism is a alive and well…in the democrat party!!! They can’t handle the truth, so they shut down free speech on campus any time a conservative comes.

    Thank God for Trump and the EO he passed enforcing free speech on college campuses.

    MAGA! Trump 20/20!!!

  7. Bill says:

    What a crock of liberal biased garbage.

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