On college campuses across the country free speech is being restricted through such tactics as “free speech zones” or college officials withholding activity funds to students groups they believe are “controversial,” such as pro-life students or politically conservative students. Yet as Elliot Engstrom explains in his recent Townhall.com article, students are fighting for their First Amendment free speech rights—and winning:
…thanks to a broad coalition of students and pro-speech activists, each has either ended in victory for free expression or is under challenge at this very moment. Those partnering with students to bring these challenges range from the leftist American Civil Liberties Union to the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom. This coalition's political diversity is a testament to just how misguided these attempts to curb student speech truly are. Regardless of political viewpoint, we must foster a free and open marketplace of ideas, at our universities of all places.
Engstrom does not question the motivations or intentions of college officials, but no matter how well intentioned their efforts might seem, stifling students’ First Amendment rights is a lose-lose for all of us:
Free speech offends. It questions. It discomforts. These are not reasons to suppress speech on campus. Rather, they demonstrate precisely why we must foster open discourse. If a student can enter and leave a college campus without being challenged by provocative and unpopular ideas, then our universities have failed in their role as engines of progress in society. …
Universities cannot be padded environments that expose students only to pre-approved, "acceptable" ideas. A productive and meaningful education includes questioning the status quo both within the classroom and without, something that can only happen when free expression thrives. For this reason, we should relegate campus speech codes to the dustbin of history. There, they may serve as a relic of one more American generation's victory for freedom of speech.