It wasn’t that long ago that American colleges were a place students went not only to get a quality education, but to be exposed to new ideas and ways of thinking. One of the most valuable aspects of higher education was that it forced you to think critically about the world around you, allowing you to explore ideas in an intellectually rich environment.
These days, that aspect of college education is under assault. Instead of forcing students to confront opposing views head on, colleges have now begun setting up safe spaces where feelings are valued over logic. Instead of exposing students to a diversity of ideas, colleges have continuously banned speakers from campus that might “offend” students. (Case in point: our own Col. West’s experience this past fall.)
Of course, it’s increasingly obvious that the ideas unwelcome on college campuses are conservative ideas. Liberal professors outnumber conservatives 12-1. Conservative speakers like Ben Shapiro are the ones being banned from campus. Safe spaces are set up for students upset a Republican won the election, while midterms are canceled to appease those same snowflakes.
Sure, college campuses still pay lip service to our constitutional ideals. They pretend to believe in freedom of speech and expression. However, the reality is that our most basic principles are under assault at colleges all across the country. Indeed, even handing out pocket United States Constitutions on one campus in Michigan landed some conservative students in hot water. From Campus Reform:
Students handing out copies of the United States Constitution at Grand Valley State University were threatened with arrest if they refused to stop.
Students from the newly-formed Turning Point USA chapter at GVSU were handing out pocket Constitutions and pamphlets promoting their new group on campus recently when they were approached by two campus police officers, who instructed them to desist because they were violating the school’s solicitation policy.
“If you continue to stay here, then we’ll need to arrest you.”
“In order to do that, you gotta be approved by the office of student life,” one officer told them, asserting that the policy applies to any distribution of materials, even if one is not selling anything or asking for money.
You know things have gotten bad on campus when you’re not even allowed to use your First Amendment rights to distribute the very document that protects those rights.
For its part, Grand Valley claims it respects the rights of students, they just have to utilize them in “free speech zones” on campus. Of course, all they need to do is obtain permission first. What seems lost on the administrators at Grand Valley is that as a public institution, their entire campus is a free speech zone. Moreover, the only “permission” students need to utilize their rights to free speech are contained within the document they were attempting to pass out.
Thankfully, the students at Grand Valley have decided to fight back. News broke yesterday that the students who were harassed by campus police have filed a lawsuit against the university for limiting free speech on campus. From Michigan Radio:
A student group at Grand Valley State University is suing the school for restricting free speech on campus.
The lawsuit alleges that members of the student group “Turning Point USA at Grand Valley University” were told by university police they would be arrested if they continued talking to students outside a specified area on campus at an October event.
“Students don’t need permission to speak on college campuses,” said Tyson Langhoffer, the attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom representing students Tim McKeeby and Joe Tucker. “The only permission they need is the First Amendment.”
This is great news for those of us concerned about the state of affairs at American colleges. Finally, students who have seen these draconian rules limit their rights have started to fight back.
In order to reverse the trend that has killed the marketplace of ideas on campus, more students like those at Grand Valley must stand up for their rights.
Perhaps these students will start a new trend that will sweep across the country. Only time will tell.
[Note: This post was authored by Michael Lee. Follow him on Twitter @UAMichaelLee]