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Free Speech on College Campuses

College is a time when most individuals are experiencing major changes and begin to explore new perspectives. The transition in becoming more independent, creating new insights and peer influence are key factors in changing the perspective of an individual. Students are faced with new ideas from their professors, family and fellow peers.

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Through that acquired knowledge many students decide that they either agree or disagree with the perspectives that they are taught. Allowing the right of ‘Free Speech’ on public college campuses has become an important issue that many public colleges are starting to address.

In college students are capable of informing their peers about issues that are important and controversial. It is important that students are able to maintain this right so they can and inform the student body to promote positive change. Free speech should be allowed on public college campuses because it liberates students to actively engage in controversial issues. ‘Free Speech’ is necessary on college campuses because it allows students to determine their own beliefs and promote positive change. Free speech’ can be interpreted as, “The ability for students to explore controversial topics and express popular opinions without fear or reprisal” (Schmidt 1). College is an important transition in life because it is an age where students are forced to make their own independent decisions. Students are leaving home for the first time and explore new ideas and establishing their own opinion on current issues that surround them. ‘Free Speech’ is essential because it provides awareness to college campuses and it a proactive way of educating students outside of the classroom.

A perfect example of this took place on the campus of University of Oregon, it was a debate whether or not the Pacifica Forum should be allowed to hold meetings in University of Oregon’s classrooms on campus. Although this was not a popular group, the majority of people on campus believed that the Pacifica forum should not be allowed. Despite their opinions, free speech was a great way in this situation for students to rally together and publically inform the rest of campus of their beliefs. In he school newspaper, The Daily Emerald, CJ Ciaramelle wrote “About 300 students from across the campus community — student unions, Greek Life, the ASUO, the Survival Center, the Women’s Center — showed up at the meeting to protest the Forum” (1). Although the majority of people protested against the forum the right to free speech, it is important because it allows students to make decisions on their own and invite students to do the same.

“Free speech” often has negative connotations because the negative outcomes are publicized more than the positive outcomes. Free Speech’ is a time for individuals to express their beliefs and topic on an important issue. People chose to present themselves in a vast majority of ways such as, holding signs, making t-shirts, shouting, etc. People who chose to present themselves in disrupting ways such as, foul language, inappropriate attire are more likely to be noticed than another student that is holding a simple and respectful sign. Schmidt states, “Universities cannot censor or suppress speech, no matter how obnoxious in content, without violating their justification of existence” (2).

There is no definition of what type of ‘free speech’ should be censored and not allowed. With that said, there should not be a limit on ‘free speech’ because people should be allowed to express themselves despite other peoples thoughts on what is ‘acceptable’. The opposing view would state that ‘free speech’ should not be allowed on college campus because it provides an unsafe learning environment. This is a valid point but limiting students to voice their own opinions on campus forces the opinions of professors onto students.

In the article, “The University and Freedom” written by Benno Schmit, he states, “The assumption seems to be that the purpose of education is to induce “correct” opinion rather than to search for wisdom and to liberate the mind” (2). This is a good point suggesting that if students are not allowed to project their opinion, in a sense, it is just another way for Universities to teach by their own views and opinions. The opposition also states that many people are paying for an education so therefore they should have the right to feel safe walking through campus.

This is also a valid point, but ‘free speech’ is an opportunity for people to express themselves. If at any point a person expresses himself or herself in a fashion that is unacceptable it then becomes another issue such as harassment, trespassing, indecent exposure, etc. The issue would then be addressed as an independent and different case rather than an act of ‘free speech’. Many ‘free speech’ cases can be very sensitive, but that certainly does not mean that they should not be addressed.

It is important that people are not limited to expressing their voice publically because people need to see multiple perspectives then just their own. ‘Free speech’ also provides an opportunity for students to gather together and promote positive change. Allowing a person to publically speak their minds often is seen to be disruptive. Many people do not think about the positive outcomes that ‘Free Speech’ provides. Allowing students to express their opinions often is for the better and creates positive change.

It is a proactive way for students to become educated and inform their peers about issues that are happening on campus. This relates to the Pacifica Forum controversy because students were able to express their views using their right of ‘free speech’. A few students were able to educate a majority of students about the Pacifica Forum and were able to force them off of campus. The ASUO president, Emma Kallaway, stated in the Daily Emerald “This may seem like a small victory in the larger fight, but it’s still a tremendous testament to student power that we were able to force this group out of our student union” (1).

This is an example of ‘Free Speech’ providing a positive outcome when students can rally together and use their rights to achieve what they set their minds to do. When students become passionate about a certain issue, many of them use freedom of speech as a productive way to inform their peers in hopes to gain positive change for the community. It is important that people understand that ‘Free Speech’ is an opportunity for students to project their voices to inform and invite more students to do the same. ‘Free Speech” is essential when educating and providing students with knowledge that can be sensitive and controversial.

Students should not be limited on what they chose to express. It is important to consider that just because a issue is sensitive and controversial does not mean it should not be discussed. ‘Free speech’ allows students the right to engage and determine their own perspectives when faced with controversial issues in the ‘real life’. ‘Free Speech’ is also extremely important because it is a productive way of informing students to rally together to make a positive change that will contribute to better mankind.

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