Florida was just in the news because Gov. Rick Scott, following the heels of lawmakers, made clear so-called “free speech zones” just ought not be part and parcel of the college campus life.
Quite right. Free-speech zones are simply the left’s way of chipping constitutional protections for conservatives. And it’s high time schools the nation over — particularly the ones that receive taxpayer dollars — give the boot to these communist-style clampdowns to God-given and constitutionally protected rights.
The First Amendment makes clear the government shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, of the press, or of the people to peaceably assemble and petition for the redress of grievances. Courts, except in certain circumstances, have generally interpreted and expanded those protections to apply in the free market, as well.
But colleges around the nation — some privately funded, some taxpayer-supported — have managed to dodge these basic First Amendment clauses to an uncomfortably large degree in recent years. In recent decades, in fact, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
“The decades of the 1980s and 1990s were times of contrast and contrary impulses in the field of free speech,” the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) wrote.
Why? What happened?
Blame the administrators. As more and more previously discriminated-against types joined the worlds of higher learning — gays, women, minorities, Muslims and those of faiths other than Christianity, to name a few — “administrators, claiming to assist the peaceful coexistence of individuals in their more diverse communities, began looking for ways to prevent the friction that they feared,” FIRE went on.
They sought to protect these special classes from feeling offended by those who would rather they not be there. And they sought to protect these special classes by setting up special rules that limited what could be deemed as offensive speech.
Apparently, these misguided, short-term-thinking administrators neither cared their actions were antithetical to the First Amendment, nor acknowledged that their speech rules were completely contrary to the atmosphere of learning and open-mindedness that’s supposed to mark the higher learning process in the first place.
Free-speech zones, by their very definition, are speech-limiting. And it’s not as if this is a big secret.
Courts, on many, many occasions, have struck down these types of impositions on speech. But never underestimate the power of the left to cry.
The left, the dominant ideology on college campuses in American, has successfully pushed for silence on offensive speech by railing against hate, by railing against racism, by railing against misogyny and other forms of discrimination and, most recently, by railing against bullying.
What the left really means with all this railing but won’t admit is that conservatism must go. The left simply wants to abolish all forms of conservative rhetoric from the education system — heck, from U.S. political and cultural society, in general — beginning with speech and ultimately ending with thought. The left has been very clever with their labeling campaigns.
As FIRE noted: “In 2010 and 2011, both state and federal legislators rushed to respond to a tragic spate of high-profile teenage suicides with ‘anti-bullying’ legislation … [which] too often fails to respect student speech rights.”
Nowadays, “free speech zones” — areas specifically set aside to allow those with views deemed outside the norm, or contrary to popular public expression — are pretty common on college campuses.
Common or not, these zones have never been in line with the Constitution. They’re tantamount to censorship — government censorship, actually, if the university is in any way funded by taxpayers. Moreover, they’re completely contrary to the whole college experience. How can one truly learn if one is limited to hearing only select viewpoints? A handful of states have come to the same conclusion and outlawed free-speech zones on college campuses. Florida now joins that list.
But the list is still too small.
If the point of America’s education system is to educate — to allow for free exchanges of ideas, hearty debates and discussions of even the most sensitive of political and cultural of topics — then free-speech zones must go. Moreover, if the point of America is to offer a form of government that recognizes the God-given aspect of individual rights, as well as a political system that enshrine and protects these rights in a Constitution, then free-speech zones must go. And not just in Florida, but in every state around the nation.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @ckchumley.
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