There are many different types of freedoms available to college students in the United States. Choosing to practice these freedoms or not practice them is also your freedom. Among these many freedoms are freedom of religion, freedom for unreasonable search and seizures, freedom of the press, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is a major topic of discussion at the moment in the United States and college students are right in the middle of it. You will hear one side of spectrum saying that college students can practice freedom of speech and the other side of the spectrum saying that college students can not practice freedom of speech. Perhaps the reason there is any doubt that college students practice freedom of speech is that the administration, government, and authority figures put restrictions on freedom of speech.
There are people trying to limit free speech everywhere. Friedersdorf puts it like this, “To sum it up free speech on campus is threatened from a dozen different directions” (Friedersdorf). One of the groups that tries to limit freedom of speech is administration in schools. They could be limiting free speech to benefit their students, they could be doing it for personal gain, or they could be doing it just to do it no one really knows the exact reason and the reasons for limiting freedom of speech could be completely different for each administration. Author Judy Blume, whose books are published and read around the world, says, “I’ve always said censorship is caused by fear” (Baker). Maybe administrations are afraid that if students start practicing freedom of speech then the administration would have little to no power over the students if they worked together for one common goal. This is not just something going on in the United States. Rather, it is going on all over the world. In the United Kingdom “several UK institutions have recently issued “tone of voice” guidelines governing publications” (Docherty). This is saying that guidelines have been put in to place to tell college students that they have to meet certain criteria to openly express what they want to say. This opens the door to the question: Is it really possible to have freedom of speech if there are guidelines to follow and people to answer to?
The government is also a big limiter of freedom of speech. This however is not a new thing. People have been having sit ins, protests, and rallies to fight against the government for years. Some people, however, do not realize that these are still going on today. This is because the limiting hand of the government much less noticeable and outright. In an article written by Thomas Docherty he said, “It was suggested that “Prevent coordinators” could “give universities access to the information they need to make informed decisions” about who they allowed to speak on campuses” (Docherty). This means the Prevent coordinators, people set in place by the government, could come through and tell people exactly what they are allowed to say and not say on college campuses. They limited not only what people could say, but also what people were allowed to hear. Hearing is information and information is power. Think about it this way: have you ever seen the Spongebob Squarepants Movie where Plankton enslaves all of Bikini Bottom by putting bucket hats over their heads so that they are unable to do and think whatever they want? Well that is what college campuses would look like if freedom of speech was taken away from college students. Governments are continuing to limit freedom of speech and Doherty said it best, “Governments world wide increasingly assert the legal power to curtail the free speech and freedom of assembly that is axiomatic to the existence of academic freedom” (Docherty).
Most people in a positions of authority try to limit freedom of speech in some way. This could be bosses, teachers, and even parents. In an article published about Baker Judy Blume says, “In 2009, her publisher even had to send her a body guard, after she was deluged with hate-mail and threats for speaking out in support of Planned Parenthood” (Baker). These people who put themselves in a position above Judy Blume tried to put restrictions on what she should and should not say by threatening her and trying to scare her into saying what they wanted to hear. In an article published by the New York Times, one of the very well known news sources in the world, It is said, “Others assert that free speech is not truly available to all, especially members of marginalized groups” (McCarthy). This was written by McCarthy the president of Smith College. This means that there are college students who have even less freedom of speech than other college students because of their race, ethnicity, or background.
There are some people who actually do care about college students’ right to freedom of speech and speak out against the limiting of it. Vicky Baker said, “As a board member of the National Coalition Against Censorship in the United States, she has long spoken with passion about her views on the freedom to read, and against books being censored” (Baker). There is a whole organization on the side of college students fighting for freedom of speech and non-censorship. In a New York Times article Lythcott-Haims actually blamed students for the restrictions on their own freedom of speech,saying, “It is not students who need to be kept safe from idea, it’s the very ideal of ideas that need to be kept safe from fragile young adults with fingers in their ear” (Lythcott-Haims). Lythcott-Haims, the former dean of freshmen at Stanford University, is saying that maybe it is college students themselves limiting their own freedom of speech. So maybe we just need to get out of our own way to be able to freely speak out against any injustice that may come our way.
The limitations are mounted against us as college students so we need to work together to stop the limitations coming from administration, government, and every authority figure around us. One twig is easy to break but a bundle of twigs is nearly impossible to break.
Baker, Vicky. “Battle of the Bans: US author Judy Blume interviewed about trigger warnings, book banning and children’s literature today.” Sage Journals Index of Censorship, September 2015, http://ioc.sagepub.com/content/44/3/64.extract.
Docherty, Thomas. “Open-door policy? Trigger warnings, no platforming, offense and extremism: a look at threats to free debate in UK universities.” Sage Journals Index of Censorship, June 2015, http://ioc.sagepub.com/content/44/3/64.extract.
Friedersdorf, Conor. “The Glaring Evidence that Free Speech is Threatened On Campus.” The Atlantic’s Policy and Politics Daily, 4 March 2016, http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/ archive/2016/03/ the-glaring-evidence-that-free-speech-is-threatened-on-campus/471825/.
Lythcott-Haims, Julie. “Millennials Will Soon Define ‘America,’ and That’s a Problem
for Ideas.” The New York Times Room For Debate, 21 Dec. 2015, http:// www.nytimes.com/ roomfordebate/2015/11/02/when-a-generation-becomes-less-tolerant- of-free-speech/millennials- will-soon-define-america-and-thats-a-problem-for-ideas.
McCartney, Kathleen. “Today’s Students Have a New Way of Looking at Free Speech.” The New York Times Room For Debate, 21 Dec. 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/ 2015/11/02/ when-a-generation-becomes-less-tolerant-of-free-speech/todays-students- have-a-new-way-of- looking-at-free-speech.