Ah, the freedom of speech. Outlined in our nation’s Constitution and considered one of the most fundamental of all human rights, it gives us the ability to express ourselves without government interference, restraint, or suppression (“Freedom of Speech: An Overview”). Free speech is practiced by all types of American citizens, from the teenage girl posting a picture of a Starbucks cup on Instagram to the riled adult handing out fliers for a political cause. Every form of expression, ranging from the frivolous to the meaningful and the agreeable to the controversial, is protected by this significant and irreplaceable liberty. With this in mind, freedom of speech should surely be guaranteed in all corners of our nation.
Unfortunately, that is not the case. There are places where the freedom of speech is censored and repressed by strict regulation and high-ranking officials. Things spoken or posted online are scrutinized, and individuals who express views deemed unpopular or inappropriate are swiftly punished. This oppression of liberty happens in the most unexpected place where free thought and discussion are supposed to be protected and promoted: our colleges and universities.
In most campuses, speech codes are enforced. Students can get into trouble for what they say, what they post on Facebook, and even what they wear. Schools like Colorado College won’t allow embarrassing statements to be said about other students. Certain jokes or “inappropriate e-mails” are banned, and at times, the area where students are allowed to express themselves amount to a miniscule free speech zone, such as in the University of Cincinnati. Davidson College even prohibits students from asking other students out on dates. (“What Every Student Should Know Before Starting College”). Not only do these regulations violate the First Amendment and cause our Founding Fathers to roll in their graves, but they completely clash against the purpose of higher education: to nurture intellectual growth and discovery.
Freedom of speech is essential to college life. Without it, students would not able to learn. The academic process takes place due to the distribution, obtainment, and discussion of information. Imagine being punished for taking part in this scholastic process.
That’s what happened to Keith John Sampson of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. He was found guilty of racial harassment for reading a book about the Ku Klux Klan (“Silencing U: Five Outrageous Cases of Campus Censorship”). Reading, a harmless activity of self-education that should be considered a normal occurrence on a college campus, was found to be an act of harassment simply because the book’s subject matter consisted of a notorious hate group. This event completely opposes the purpose of higher education, which is to support students’ attainment of knowledge and improvement of literacy. If students are restricted from informing themselves on topics found controversial or offensive,...