After protests and riots, free speech is MIA on college campuses

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Conservatives have often used the term “special snowflake” to mock students who can’t handle ideas they disagree with — but “snowflake” is hardly a sufficient term to describe the rioters at UC Berkeley, who unleashed a maelstrom of destruction in protest of acceptance and tolerance.

“Liberals do a great deal of talking about hearing other points of view, [but] it sometimes shocks them to learn that there are other points of view,” William F. Buckley wrote in 1959 about the necessity of free speech. His words ring just as true today, as college administrators have recently shut down conservative speech and actions.

{mosads}At DePaul University, Milo Yiannopoulos and Ben Shapiro were banned due to “inflammatory speech” and “safety concerns”; the administration even threatened to arrest Shapiro if he set foot on campus again. At Kellogg Community College, three students representing Young Americans for Liberty were arrested for handing out pocket Constitutions in a public space on campus. At UC Irvine, a pro-Palestinian group attempted to violently shut down an event sponsored by Students Supporting Israel.


With the election of Donald Trump, protesters have taken their opposition to an unprecedented level. Petitioning, disruptions, and general harassment were common tactics at first; but now that arsenal has expanded to include rioting, looting, and lobbing Molotov cocktails at police officers. The sting at the ballot box has caused these snowflakes — and actual “antifa” anarchists — to take out this frustration through radical tactics.

Only a few hours ago, protesters at New York University disrupted a speech by conservative comedian Gavin McInnes. Eleven people were arrested.

These situations have influenced a growing movement among conservative and libertarian students to protect the First Amendment on campus. This includes inviting controversial speakers, exercising free speech outside schools’ designated “free speech zones,” and making every effort to respectfully spread their message to others.

UC Berkeley was once home to the Free Speech Movement — promoted by liberal students who believed that open dialogue and discussion of political ideas on campus would form a stronger academic climate. After what happened Wednesday night, when Berkeley canceled an appearance by Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos, is now impossible to describe Berkeley as a place of open dialogue.

The First Amendment protects freedoms of speech, religion, press, and assembly, but many now seem to believe that it does not include anything they deem offensive. Despite the lack of a hate speech clause, students and administrators will claim that hate speech is not protected and that those partaking in it can be punished. Though they claim this is to protect marginalized communities and individual feelings, they instead marginalize conservatives for any speech in which they individually disagree with — often through harassment and violence.

On one campus, “ugly,” “you guys,” and “crazy” were labeled as offensive terms which students should avoid. On another, the word “American” was considered “problematic.” From pro-Trump chalking in public spaces to the display of a crucifix on campus, nothing seems safe from this sort of censorship. Of course, if conservative students were to follow suit and label disagreeable ideas as “hate speech” — such as federally-funded abortions, socialism, and subsidized health care, the outcry would be unbelievable.

The only speech which constitutes an exception to the rule is, as the Supreme Court ruled, that which creates a “clear and present danger” to life, liberty, or property. Mere disagreement does not fall into any of those categories.

A key focus of conservatism among students has been support of free speech despite what that speech entails. The purpose of protecting all speech ensures that when you have an unpopular opinion, you are not silenced. Students who invite controversial speakers see the value of inviting speakers with these views, because they plow the way for views that aren’t so controversial but may be subject to censorship by the left.

Conservative and libertarian students can never budge on their acceptance of all speech, because allowing any group of individuals to choose what is acceptable is a loss of civil liberties. Liberals students should join their pursuit for free speech because if Trump is a “fascist” as they often claim, they should be the first to tolerate and allow all speech.

In response to the riots at UC Berkeley, President Trump questioned on Twitter Thursday morning if the school should continue to receive federal funding. And again on Friday, he took aim at “professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters.” In him, we can expect an ally in demanding free speech on campus.

Colleges cannot protect their students from ideas, but they can protect them from violence. The battle over free speech goes on, but as resistance to opposing ideas grows ever more violent and radical, the issue of free speech becomes even more imperative for students and America as a whole.

Kassy Dillon is a junior at Mount Holyoke College studying International Relations and Middle Eastern Studies. She is the MHC College Republican President, the Massachusetts YAL state chair, and she is also the founder of Follow her on Twitter: @KassyDillon.

The views of contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill

Tags Berkeley Donald Trump free speech New York City New York University Protest riots Snowflakes UC Berkeley United States
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