Free Speech, enshrined in the first amendment of the Bill of Rights, is a right for every American. In a public university, free speech should not be censored. However, college campuses are not what they used to be like…and lawmakers are catching on to the fact. Legislators in the North Carolina House and Senate have introduced legislation that would protect and preserve free speech on public college campuses.
College campuses should encourage the exercise of free speech. A university should be the haven for the marketplace of ideas, not just the ideas that are favored by certain professors, faculty and staff.
Classrooms should not only be a place to learn, but a place to question the status quo. Colleges and universities should introduce students to new ideas and schools of thought.
My generation is full of future leaders our country and critical thinkers that will invent solutions to save lives and make the world a better, more prosperous place to live. How is that going to happen if our colleges and universities have not created an environment where we no longer feel comfortable expressing our own ideas that contradict our professors’ viewpoints?
I risk receiving a worse grade if I express my opinions. I am not alone. Countless other students feel the same fear I do. If my unpopular or dissenting opinion is suppressed and not shared out of fear of being reprimanded, and others don’t share their opinions for the very same reason, how am I to be challenged? How are others supposed to be challenged and be exposed to diverse ideas?
North Carolina universities have created an environment where students do not feel comfortable expressing ideas, opinions, and thoughts that are contrary to the norm. Thoughtful, challenging discussion is lost. At the most fundamental level, if colleges and universities are no longer the home to the marketplace of ideas, our country will cease to flourish.
Regardless of the beliefs, liberal or conservative or somewhere in between, everyone loses and we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past if intellectually diverse conversations no longer exist on college campuses. This climate of fear and censorship has suppressed the will of students to speak freely, no matter the content.
Individual students are not the only victim of censorship and selective free speech endorsement. Student groups on campus have had ridiculous charges brought against them if they do not agree or even know about campus free speech regulations.
Students across the state are experiencing confusing campus free speech regulations. It’s time our lawmakers take a stand to help clarify and eliminate the unnecessarily burdensome regulations that limit students’ expression of free speech. Urge them to pass this legislation and protect and preserve free speech on our campuses.
James Holbrooks is a junior at UNCC, majoring in political science and history with a focus in American Government and Public Policy.