The State of Free Speech on a College Campus

The author’s identity is being withheld to protect his security. Thanks for my guest column on the state of free speech on a college campus. That issue has received a lot of attention in the media recently, so it should definitely be a good topic to discuss. If you want to read more of my thoughts (such as this free speech on college campuses article series), check out my website- Gen Z Conservative. -GenZ Conservative


I think an introduction would be appropriate. I am originally from Atlanta, Georgia, but I currently attend school in Virginia. My degree is currently towards a double major in politics and accounting. I think those two subject areas will help me succeed in life, no matter what career path I pursue. In addition to classes and social activities, I am heavily involved in campus politics. Because I think it is every student’s responsibility to make their campus a better place, I try my best to lobby for conservative causes that matter to me and would be good for campus. That political involvement has made me a well-known campus conservative. 

Because of my political involvement, people that meet me know this due to my involvement in clubs and campus journalism. Not that it’s a bad thing, it just makes my experience a bit different. It shouldn't matter, as we should all be able to get along with people outside our political sphere, but it does. That experience has been super valuable. I have learned how to get along with all types of people, disagree and debate in a respectful way even when the other side isn’t being civil, and how to stand up for myself in a strong manner. Hopefully I can educate others on how to do the same through this column and my personal website. Navigating a college campus as a conservative can be tough; there are lots of obstacles. Maybe this advice can make it a little less difficult for all of the other Gen Z conservatives!

Is Free Speech Disappearing on College Campuses? 

In this first column, I would like to describe the problem of free speech on college campuses. Or, in better words, the problem that liberals seem to have with allowing free speech.

America has traditionally been known as a haven for free speech. Yes, you can’t scream “fire” in a crowded theater and cause a panic, but you can always stand up for what you believe in. Students, for better or worse, stood up against the government to protest the war in Vietnam. African-Americans marched for Civil Rights. Conservatives advocate for reduced taxes and less gun control. Our system has been strengthened by that free speech because it brings debates into the public sphere. Once a topic is debated by free people, it is hard to hide the truth. Americans have always believed in that and treasured their right to free speech.

Or at least that used to be the case. A recent phenomenon is that many liberal students, professors, and administrators refuse to accept the concept of free speech. When presented with an idea that they disagree with, they don’t debate it. Instead, they shut down all conversation. Students start crying and run off to their safe space. Professors scream that you’re wrong, shut down all conversation, and harass you for expressing beliefs different than theirs. Most administrators refuse to allow conservative speakers to come visit.

For a conservative student, that atmosphere and environment can be extremely hard to navigate. We should be able to express our ideas openly and freely. But we can’t. The radical Leftists on campus panic, so instead of having thoughtful debates on pro-choice versus pro-life, or low taxes versus an increased welfare state, capitalism versus socialism or any other social or political issue, we are forced to just listen to the party line on a wide variety of subjects. There is little to no thoughtful debate of the important subjects currently bedeviling American society. Instead, there is just one line of thought expressed; the thoughts of the most radical edges of the Democratic party. On many college campuses, conservative students have no voice.

To me, that is incredibly sad and troubling. It is sad because it goes against everything that America once stood for. Like I described earlier, we used to be a country known for supporting freedom of speech. Now we aren’t. Disagreement is termed hate speech and shut down completely. Saying that lowering taxes is a good policy idea is “spreading hate speech” is beyond me. But it all seems to make sense to the radical left. And that is why it is so troubling.

It would be one thing if these people didn’t really believe in what they’re advocating for. If they were just cynically using terms like “hate speech” to stifle their political opponents. That would be bad, but combatable. It wouldn’t be in line with past American thinking, but it makes sense in a realpolitik sort of way. I’m sure some are using their “sensitivity” and calling opposing arguments “hate speech” to do just that. But the problem is that most aren’t just being Machiavellian. Instead, they actually seem to believe their own propaganda. And that is impossible to combat. If they really do think the way they say they do, all hope may be lost.

I don’t like being a pessimist, but I have trouble seeing how we can recover from a situation where tens of thousands of the intellectual elite seem to believe that the opposing views are both evil and not to be discussed. If the views of the other side are bad, you debate those views and use facts and logic to poke holes in the other side’s argument. That is the right way to handle disagreements. Yet liberal students, professors, and administrators on college campuses can’t seem to do that. They are completely unable to handle the idea of the other side disagreeing with them, so they just shut down all debate. They aren’t emotionally mature enough to have debates, so they prevent those debates from happening in the first place. It is a very sad state of affairs.

So, what can a conservative college student do to push back on the current shut down of free speech? Two things. If you master these two ways to push back, we might be able to turn the tide.

The first is to always be prepared for a debate. Don’t seek those debates out but be ready to have them if the other side voices a political opinion that you disagree with. Know your facts, keep your emotions tucked away, and just debate logically. Ask questions about the other side’s point of view to both better understand it and poke holes in it. Bring up your opinions, and make sure to use indisputable and well-researched facts to support them. Know your sources, and make sure those sources are reliable. It is also preferable to have unbiased sources. Fox News and Breitbart won’t change minds. The Wall Street Journal or Politico might. And be willing to debate thoughtfully, no matter how long it takes. Don’t be the first to give in, even if you know that you are right. They will count that as a victory. Instead, be the one that will debate till the end. They will give in first.

The second thing is that you need to always remain respectful and keep your emotions under control. The other side can do neither of those things, so they always look ridiculous. Be the bigger man. Instead of making fun of one of them for calling your ideas “hate speech,” explain thoughtfully why it is a mainstream and ethically acceptable opinion. Doing so may seem ridiculous, but it will help keep the debate going in a respectful manner so that you can change minds. Because always remember, the other side has authority figures in their corner. As soon as you start lashing out in the same manner that they do, the debate will be shut down and you might even be punished. It is a ridiculous double standard, but it exists. Maybe one day we can overturn it, but for now we just need to deal with it. K
eep your emotions in check. That relates to always being respectful, but is worth saying. You will be much more likely to change minds and effectively get your point across if you don’t get angry. What the other side will be defending might make your blood boil. As I talked about in my “The Democratic Party has Changed” post, the current Democratic party supports some pretty nasty policies like late-term abortion. I used to get so angry about those things. Because I was angry, I couldn’t convince anyone that my point of view was the rational and right one. I looked just as emotional and irrational as the Left. Now, I do my best to remain calm. That has been a much better strategy for convincing people. Stick to it; it works. 

I hope you enjoyed this post! It should be helpful for those seeking to understand why and how liberals have shut down free speech and how we can fight back against it. Check in next week for another update on what it’s like to be a conservative on a college campus on my blog! In the meantime, check out my website to better understand my views on topics like these. The link is Enjoy!

By: Gen Z Conservative

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