Freedom of Speech: Social Impact

By Daniel D’Amico, Trending Writer

Students have a long history of defending freedom of speech at colleges. However, recently students are supporting putting restrictions on exactly how peers can express themselves. They are starting to question the ideals they used to value. Students and young people in general live in fear and distrust and this affects how they act towards certain issues.

While fear is the main catalyst of their choice to limit freedom of expression, there can be other reasons. Many students now support limits, repercussions and warnings. According to The Atlantic, Brown University, John Hopkins University, Williams College, and Haverford College withdrew speakers because their students objected to their views and/or ideologies. This is one example in which limiting freedom of speech directly affects those on campus as they miss out on the opportunity to be exposed to different ideas.

Another instance concerns a teacher who talked about the derogatory term “wetbacks” for Mexican immigrants as a history lesson. This offended many and as a result he was monitored as a means of warning him. Both examples show a desire not to offend students. The Atlantic states, “Students and their families have been increasingly treated as ‘customers.’” This limits students and explains why administration gives in to their demands. This often results in them missing out on the full college experience.

The college experience is all about thinking independently and being exposed to different ideas. An article in The Washington Post says, “‘If your core beliefs haven’t been challenged at least once during you time here, then you’re not doing it right.’” Students need to be exposed to different, sometimes controversial ideas. This prepares them to develop and test their beliefs.

Campuses are now viewed as places of intolerance as far as free speech is concerned with the students at the head. The NY Times discusses a PEN America report, “And Campus for All: Diversity, Inclusions and Freedom of Speech at U.S. Universities”, which highlights the growing divide between free speech and student activists. Free speech is often used in a harmful manner.

One example is a case of Anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel at U.C.L.A. The NY Times discusses how debates about how Israel was treating Palestinians ensued Students called for administrations to divest from companies that enabled this. This instance led to great separation between Jews and minorities. Here, free speech can be seen as overwhelming despite the student’s right to act as they did.

While freedom of speech can have some negative implications and uses, it must be guaranteed in most cases. Colleges should be a safe space where people can share ideas and views openly without targeting specific groups. The restrictions of such a right deprive students of many ideas and experiences that they could benefit from.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, November 22nd print edition.

Contact Daniel at

daniel.damico@student.shu.edu

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