Throughout our day to day lives, we almost never stop to think about an opinion or idea that we may have. Almost always, we feel secure when expressing our own opinions or ideas, and understand that as citizens of the United States, we are granted a right to freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is a crucial right that Americans are granted under the first amendment of the constitution. This right allows us as individuals to express our ideas freely, without any consequence by the law. Freedom of speech can be expressed through art, visual media, printed media, and gives us the ability as Americans to have our own thoughts and ideas. Although sometimes, freedom of speech can be controversial and offend others. When freedom of speech meets controversy, usually it is because of a large group in society who may not agree with the point of what someone may be saying. An art student might express their right to freedom of speech through their artwork. A college campus may invite a speaker on campus as a way to spread thought-provoking ideas. College campuses today, however, may have more limitations to our freedom of speech than we might think. Although freedom of speech is protected under the first amendment, college campuses can still limit this right.
A college student on campus can express their right to free speech on campus through a number of methods. However, a mistake many college students might make would be failing to take their own community into consideration. When practicing your right to free speech on campus, it is important to take other student’s thoughts or beliefs into consideration. Take art for example, where a student brought in and slaughtered a live chicken in front of their peers for a project (Grant). although slaughtering a chicken may be okay when on a farm, on a college campus, it is unacceptable. This particular act offended a large group of students, as well as the professor. The student, in particular, did not take the extra step to think about his peers, and how his actions would affect them.
Another way students’ freedom of speech could be affected or limited while on a college campus could be the mob mentality effect. Where if a majority of students believe in a certain idea, the minority, may feel pressured to switch their beliefs, or even worse, lose their voice entirely. In the summer of 2017, Brookings Institution took a poll asking if it was okay “for a student group to shout down a speaker(Zimmerman)” if they believed the speaker was making “offensive and hurtful statements”(Zimmerman). According to the poll, 51 percent of the students saw these actions as acceptable, while the other 49 percent disagreed. (Zimmerman) The students who disagree tend to be the ones who are silenced. Scared or worried that they will be targeted by a specific student group that disagrees with their beliefs. Students who don’t say anything at all, tend to find it easier to sit back and ignore any of the problems going on, rather than actually standing up for themselves or others in order to avoid a “face-to-face discussion”(Zimmerman) with other students on campus. Students on college campuses need to realize that their beliefs shouldn’t be kept only in their own heads. Now is the time for students need to speak up, to defend themselves and others. Schools believe that education should be used to “teach students to challenge themselves and engage with opposing perspectives”(Zimmerman), and to create an environment where everyone can feel free to share their ideas or beliefs, without the fear of being ridiculed or attacked by a disagreeing student group(Zimmerman).
While on a college campus, a large number of students who see an idea or belief that they find morally wrong, they will do whatever they can to shut down that persons beliefs. Students with more conservative beliefs tend to get picked on the most on college campuses, which leads most conservative students to, “‘shut up’ in class out of fear of being targeted for harboring inappropriate views”. (On College Campus) Large student groups who actively attack others for voicing different opinions are actually actively censoring students on the college campus, and infringing on their right to free speech. However, colleges don’t do much to help these student victims, which leaves the students who pick on others to be free to say and do as they please. Colleges are actually so scared to do anything about the censorship on campus, that they would actually rather remove a conservative speaker from their campus to avoid a protest, which could easily go violent. Take the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where the students were so upset and outraged over a conservative speaker coming to their campus that they, “demanded that the administration disallow conservative speakers from appearing on campus”. (On College Campus) College campuses may not want to censor a student’s right to free speech, however, at the same time, when enough students demand to silence a particular party, idea, or belief, colleges feel like its much easier to give them what they want.
We may feel like we have a strong understanding of our right to freedom of speech when it comes to living our everyday lives outside of campus. At home, at the grocery store, or on our daily walk around the neighborhood, we feel like we can express our opinions freely to the world, with little to no backlash of what the law or community might say. However, on a college campus, it is important for a student to respect the community around them in order to not offend, provoke, or even intimidate another student or student groups. In order for colleges to keep students feeling safe and to keep people from feeling offended, colleges limit the right of freedom of speech protected under the first amendment of the United States constitution.