College campuses must choose between safe spaces or free speech

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College campuses must choose between safe spaces or free speech

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College campuses, once the epicenter of the marketplace of ideas, are now the crucible for free speech controversies in the nation.

To promote “safe spaces,” speech is being suppressed.

In 2015, a college journalist was reporting on a protest at the University of Missouri and a professor tried to have him forcibly removed. “I need some muscle over here,” said Assistant Professor of Mass Communications Melissa Click, as the student cited his First Amendment right to be there, according to a video of the incident published by CBS.

Other controversies occurred at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, DePaul University and Yale in the last two years. Both involved uproarious and occasionally violent reactions to “offensive” speech.

The CSU Free Speech Handbook states, “Speech that is otherwise protected may not be disallowed solely because the audience finds the message offensive, even where members of the audience react to the speech in a disruptive manner.”

The First Amendment means more than the ability to speak freely. It provides people the power to think and believe without fear of coercion.

Freedom of speech is a fundamental right that separates representative democracies from dictatorships. It is a human right that is vital for constructive debate. And there is no place that this right should be more protected than at universities.

The Orion recently published the article “Debunking GSEC myths” which gained significant attention, becoming the most viewed article for the year. Although the article dealt with difficult and unpopular topics, the freedom to express opposing views should be looked at favorably, rather than with scorn.

It was discouraging to see public outcry over an unpopular opinion. Despite what many comments and letters to the editor said, no one should be fired, silenced or have harm done to them for their opinions. The right to think independently is the greatest asset that America provides, and opposing that freedom creates a real danger.

People do have the right to express their opinions because without having unpopular opinions that can be judged by the public, there would only be a monetized group of collective thinking. Having the public determine the views that they accept and refute is what constitutes a “marketplace of ideas.” Dictatorial power over the mind by laws or government entities eliminates individuality.

The ideas expressed within the article were unpopular, and most people believed it was written in an attempt to tear down GSEC and its members. In no section of the article was there a call to action to attack GSEC or its members. Disagreeing with certain statements or beliefs that an organization holds is not inciting violence or diminishing an organization’s efforts, it is pointing out specific ideas that a person might not believe in.

Universities are where ideas are debated and identities are formed. College is not and never should be a “safe space” where students are sheltered from opinions different from their own.

To end the semester, this editorial board of The Orion would like to leave students, staff, faculty and administration with the wisdom of Frederick Douglass, “To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.”

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