Free speech is a fundamental right that is well enshrined in the constitution of the United States under the 1st amendment. Every citizen regardless of their color class and even age has a freedom of expression. The same laws apply to institutions of higher education. However, there are always common cases where some attention-grabbing event would be reported from various institutions of higher learning around the country.
In some cases, it would be a controversial speaker that has been allowed to speak, or in some cases, a controversial speaker has been stopped from talking. In some cases, there are political conversations that argue that Americans campuses offer resistance to their views while there are others who intervene in campus free speech debates. As a result of the various warring sides, higher education leaders have been trying to manage the conflict. The leaders have been trying to understand how to balance the need to defend student from discriminatory attacks and the role of universities in protecting the expression of ideas. With all these debates it is hard to understand where the university stands in the discussion. While there might be different sides of these debates the university authority has the responsibility of keeping its students safe regardless of the aspect of freedom of speech.
Over the past few years, the university leadership did not have a good grasp on how to work out the issue of creating a balance. However, in the past two years, things have seemed to change as the leadership of higher education appears to be working out this issue. It is often common for a president of a chancellor to attend a meeting and not fail to talk about the topic of free speech on the campus. In one of the case, the controversial Milo Yiannopoulos scheduled a talk in the University of California in 2017. The colleges made it clear that it was ready to support the discussions and be prepared for riots. However, there were anti-racist black bloc rioters who started riots against the campus decision to support the talk. Later in the same years violent racist white nationalist such as Richard Speicher was demanding to get the right to speak in public universities. These created so mhany tensions and security challenges in the universities.
In some cases the security cost for the institution for allowing such speech has been millions of dollars. At the same time, the lack of expenditure on such issues has been criticized as the lack of support for free speech on the campus. The biggest challenge that the universities have had is to decide on whether it is the security of the students that matter or the need to protect and support from speech matters (Baer).
In navigating the idea of free speech in the university, the leadership has to use both wisdom and the law to be able to get a balance on the issue. There is a need to focus on the subject of academic freedom and political expression within the campus. There is a dire need for institutions to provide an environment for academic freedom. Academic freedom would mean that learners should have a chance to interrogate any issue with much freedom and support required. However, there are certain limitations to the application of academic freedom since an employee of educational institutions are treated just in the same way other public employees are treated. From the understanding of the law, one of the legitimate roles that the university has is to maintain orderliness operations besides the regulation of its affairs. Therefore, the duty to fulfill these responsibilities might outweigh an individual’s right to free speech. Besides, it is clear that academic freedom does not protect intimidating actions, actual threats or disruptive acts that tend to infringe the with education programs (Hanlon).
I support the idea of universities adopting speech codes. Speech codes are one of the effective ways that institutions of higher learning have used to balance community order and expression. Some universities have introduced what is termed as the codes that tame issues such as hate speech. Hate speech is termed as an expression whose object is to targets groups or individuals that are identified from gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation. While there is the need to have people express their views, it should not get to a point where such expression seem to target individual groups. It is with this reason that universities have adopted policies that officially ban speech that seem to target minority groups. Individuals that are found engaging in such activities are punished and in some cases, it might lead to expulsion. The idea behind such a policy is to rid of the environment of higher learning from expressions that might tend to limit constructive engagement and peace in the learning institutions (Marantz).
Universities have an essential role in controlling the speech in the institution especially the kind of statement that might lead to intimidation of some groups. The use of codes plays a critical role in limiting harassment on campus. The approach would eventually protect the victims of possible hate speech from physical, psychological or emotional. Besides, such policies would represent sound educational policy. The codes would ensure that there is no disruption of the learning process on campus. The idea should be to have an environment where the concept of rational discourses as opposed to hate inspired incitement and talks would be enshrined. The primary focus here is that the student and any other individual should exercise responsibility in their conversation. There is the freedom to express the idea; however, these ideas should be constrained within some limits. The freedom to express all idea would not provide a good environment for learning (Marantz).
The needs to have speech codes that control speech in the institutions of higher learning arise from the fact that there is so much density in these institutions. Public universities are a fertile ground for conflict over a matter of speech to occur. The institutions provide a field where people from diverse yet strongly opinionated people meet. For instance, the campus has their papers, some of which might be operated by the students, by an off-campus group or by the students. In their diversity, these institutions would often have student and faculty of different political expression, religious commitment, and even sexual orientation. Indeed the driving point of leaning in campuses is the idea of academic freedom, which means to inquire broadly. Such an environment would thus seek to promote every individual to share their views even when they are wrong. However, within this space, the most important thing is the responsibility that each of the individuals should experience. While all these ideas are supported there should be much responsibility in what one is the expression. An expression might, but at the same time, it should be controlled. There is thus need for the institutions to take responsibility (Marantz).
It is clear that the university has a great responsibility of keeping its students safe. Therefore, the cases of the institution trying to abscond from the individual actions of the learners should not be a case in point. The institution has the responsibility to ensure that the learners are living harmoniously. While in one way it should to seem to be limiting the freedom of the learners to express their idea it should still ensure that people are responsible in their expression. I do believe that in some cases the need for security and safety of the learners should be more paramount than the need for freedom of speech. If an individual speech might lead to the disruption of the protection of the learners and even cause physical harm to the learners, then it would not make sense to promote such form of speech.
In conclusion, there might be various debates on the issue of free speech on campus. There are those that think that the school should not interfere with the freedom of expression while others believe that it should shave some limit. However, from a personal point of view, I believe that there is so much diversity within the campus space that there is a need to have some control of speech. The need for security and safety for the people within the campus environment might at times demand that the freedom of expression is limited. I do think that the use of speech codes is an effective way to control expression that might jeopardize the safety of the individual within the higher education environment.
Baer, Ulrich. “Opinion | What ‘Snowflakes’ Get Right About Free Speech – The New York Times.” Breaking News, World News & Multimedia – The New York Times. N.p., 24 Apr. 2017. Web. 8 Mar. 2019.
Hanlon, Aaron R. “Why Colleges Have a Right to Reject Hateful Speakers Like Ann Coulter.” The New Republic. N.p., 24 Apr. 2017. Web. 8 Mar. 2019.
Marantz, Andrew. “How Social-Media Trolls Turned U.C. Berkeley Into a Free-Speech Circus.” The New Yorker. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2019.