Although most people generally support free speech, there is controversy over what exactly free speech means, and to what extent it should be granted. While some advocate limiting free expression on college campuses, this should not occur because students have a right to express themselves, no matter how unpopular their opinions might be.
Recently, the cancellation of speeches by conservatives Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos at University of California, Berkeley received national attention. Both of their scheduled appearances were cancelled due to violent protests by students. As a result, the Berkeley College Republicans student group filed a lawsuit against the university.
While Coulter holds some objectionable ideals, UC Berkeley has the responsibility as a university to expose their students to controversial opinions and allow them to make judgements for themselves.
It is definitely disgusting to see racism, sexism and religious intolerance, however, as long as no threats or harm is caused, the offenders have the right to say what they are saying. A student’s physical safety should be a major priority on campus, but radical opinions do not impact safety.
Even if someone has hateful views, if they are expressed peacefully, there should be no limits on their right to speak. When faced with disagreeable opinions, students should learn to be open to discuss opinions different than their own. The truth of the matter is that, no matter what is said, there will always be someone who will consider it offensive. To protect everyone’s rights, there should be no consequences for those expressing their views.
Attempting to protect college students from being offended only makes them less prepared to deal with the real world. College is a time for students to broaden their horizon, be exposed to new perspectives and learn how to navigate the real world. To deal with opposing views simply by creating a situation in which controversy is avoided causes an undesirable amount of closed-mindedness in students and defeats the point of a college education.
The goal of a college campus should be to create an environment in which students feel safe to express their views and are open to others’ perspectives. While this may seem too idealistic, it is a reasonable and worthy goal for which to strive, but placing a limit on free speech would not be helpful in pursuing this goal.