The closure of public speakers on campus by students has become increasingly common bee universities by the US
Recently at Stanford Law School, student protesters screamed for a Trump-appointed federal judge and disturbed the speech he was invited to by students.
Instead of telling the students that they were against Stanford’s speech policythe associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion, who attended the event, appeared sympathize with the students. Taking the stage, she criticized the judge, in part for being hostile to the student protesters.
The dean of the law school then issued a public apology to the judge, explaining to the audience that Stanford’s speech policy does not allow coordinated efforts to shut down invited speakers.
Students then protested the dean’s apology, claiming that “contradiction is freedom of speech.” But coordinated efforts to stop someone’s speech through disruption or threats of violence, known as “the heckler’s veto,” is not protected free speech.
As a professor of constitutional law who studies and writes about the first amendment and freedom of speech, I have seen a growing number of cases across the political spectrum where people try to suppress the opinions of others because they are deemed too harmful. This is happening not only among students and teachers on college campuses, but also among those in state and local government, on school boards and library committees.
As a scholar in this field, I know the belief that underpins the First Amendment free and open discussion is what makes democracy strong. Other way around, suppression of speech inconsistent with democratic ideals or practices.
The theory behind the First Amendment and the exercise of freedom of speech is that speech, as opposed to physical behavior or violence, must be fought with other speech. Speech in itself is not violence, and challenging ideas promote critical thinking and growth.
There is a common thread to much of the growing intolerance of speech: Rather than using speech or protest to counter the speech or expression that critics dislike, people right and left seem to want to prevent ideas they don’t like from being taken into account. the conversation come. .
Forbid, suppress and shut down
In recent years, legislators and government officials, as well as some parents and school administrators, largely in states with a Republican side, have demanded that certain books be removed from school libraries. Some government officials are also trying to make it easier to remove books from public libraries.
It is usually claimed that the books are not suitable for children. Many of the books removed from libraries or school curricula contain authors or characters who belong to racial, ethnic or religious minorities or are members of the LGBTQ+ community.
The right, which controls certain state governments, has increasingly sought to exploit this legislature to prohibit certain expressions.
Legislators have introduced bills prohibit teachers from promoting specific views which they believe is harmful to children, or is too sexual, or erodes students’ self-esteem, including suggestions that members of certain races are inherently privileged or disadvantaged because of their race.
Lawmakers have also proposed bills banning drag shows where children can be present. A ban in Tennessee is temporarily in effect ceased to take effect by a federal judge. The ban probably violates the First Amendment because it doesn’t only apply to sexually explicit expressions.
Not just conservatives
The bigotry of certain expressions is not limited to the political right.
While many of the policies that limit what students read, see, or hear come from conservatives, high school administrators are also in place in some places censor or punish conservative expressions, such as forcing students to take off sweatshirts with slogans critical of President Joe Biden.
Left, especially in higher education, has promoted policies that would force faculty and staff to adhere to certain ideas, including the stated mission of the university, undermining academic freedom and values of free speech. An instructor at Hamline University in Minnesota her offer of a job for the following semester was withdrawn after showing a class a historical depiction of the Prophet Muhammad that offended certain students. Recently an applicant for a position as a school inspector similarly, his job offer was withdrawn for addressing two women as ‘ladies’. This has a chilling effect on dissenting or even moderate voices in education.
In addition to the specific examples of suppression of speech, there is a documented shift in public attitudes toward free speech that is more diffuse, but has major implications for democracy.
Young Progressives seem eager to use the heckler’s veto to intimidate or block people.
For example, a former collegiate swimmerrecently invited to San Francisco State University to discuss her opposition to trans athletes’ participation in sports, she faced protesters so aggressive she had to be locked in a room for her own safety.
Undermining the search for truth
The censorship of the right and left can reinforce each other.
Universities are dominated in an unprecedented way by progressive professors and administrators. Many universities, including mine, have professors to show — sometimes even in their scholarship — a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Many argue that this mandate is being flouted academic freedom And forces professors to align their scholarship with a certain politicized view of group rights versus individual rights.
Many state governments have responded to these forward-thinking initiatives by enacting legislation that is even more censorship and potentially unconstitutional.
Ohio is consider an account that hinders the teaching of certain topics related to diversity at its universities. Part of the bill aims to prevent professors from forcing their opinions on students. That reflects a right-wing concern that professors force students to echo professors’ own opinions, or that professors present material in a one-sided manner.
In my opinion, these attempts to limit what people can see, say, or read undermine healthy discussion and the search for truth.
Room for agreement
But historically, freedom of speech is an area that both the right and the left have found a unifying, impartial principle. First Amendment fallen bee the High Council are often decided in ways that cross party lines, even by courts that are quite politically divided.
The left is a principled champion of abusive and hate speech, including at the American Civil Liberties Union defended in 1977 the right of neo-Nazis to march in a city home to many Holocaust survivors.
However, we now live in a different world where white supremacist groups are armed and both right and left are polarized.
Censorship leads to more censorship. Attempts by both the left and the right to impose orthodoxy by suppressing views ultimately lead to intolerance and authoritarianism. As Judge Robert H. Jackson said in a 1943 case that held that students in public schools cannot be forced to salute the flag“If there is a solid star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or small, can prescribe what will be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion.”
As much as people hate to hear views they see as harmful, that displeasure is a testament to what I believe is the most fundamental freedom guaranteed by federal law: freedom of speech.