by Chalea Marker

Envision yourself going to eat at your favorite restaurant. You feel your mouth water as you visualize sinking your teeth into your favorite dish. Now imagine that as you order, the person behind you in line says, “I’m sorry, but the item you have ordered offends me, so you cannot have it.” You would be dumbfounded, and I imagine quite upset, if this happened to you. However, something similar is happening on college campuses as students and administrations restrict views that they dislike.

A new study by John Villasenor , a professor at UCLA, shows that free speech is being restricted at universities across the nation. While interviewing undergraduates about their beliefs in regards to free speech, Villasenor found that 44% of students surveyed believe that hate speech is not protected by the Constitution. 51% of respondents stated that it is acceptable for a group to shout loudly enough to drown out an orator whose ideas they oppose. 19% believed that it is acceptable to incite violence to deter a public speaker from sharing his or her opinion. 62% of the surveyed students believed that universities are legally bound to book speakers that balance out the ideas of other invited presenters.

This trend is not confined to a single campus, but is found across the nation. Some people wonder why this matters. In order to answer this question, it is vital to understand the foundation upon which the country was created. The United States of America was founded on the idea that citizens would have a public square in which they could exchange ideas freely in order to discover truth. The Founding Fathers wanted our country to be a place where everyone could share his opinion without fear. The current environment attempts to silence opposing opinions and destroy the free exchange of ideas.

As Mr. Villasenor conveys, universities were founded with the same goal of having a space to share ideas. Independent thinking that would help make society better by encouraging citizens to make informed decisions based on exposure to a multitude of concepts.

Not only is the restriction of free speech on campus ideologically dangerous, but it is also physically dangerous. Public speakers Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulos were both scheduled to speak at UC Berkley in September of this year. However, students on campus decided to hold protests to discourage the men from coming to speak. Just last week, the Governor of Florida issued a state of emergency in preparation for a speech by Richard Spencer at the University of Florida. Protests also occurred when Lauren Southern was invited to speak at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus.

A free society is built on respect and tolerance for all, especially for those with whom we disagree. Anyone can show respect for freedom of speech by advocating for those things they believe in, without insulting others, encouraging the to sharing of ideas by having respectful, open discussions, and by choosing peaceful discourse over violence.

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