Freedom of Speech: Exploring Proper Limits

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution runs, “Congress shall make no law….abridging the freedom of speech or of the press” (U.S. Constitution, as cited in Goshgarian, 2011, p. 183). Judging from this, free speech of campus should be an inherent privilege of each student who cares about educational matters. However, questions restricted to the so-called “politically correct” speech have recently come to the forth due to the rise of political view on the campus life in the United States.

On the one hand, proclaiming freedom of speech among students on campus can contradict the firmly fixed values and beliefs accepted in colleges and universities. On the other hand, students should be able to express their opinions about different issues that matter to them. In such a way, they can learn and introduce changes to those questions. In this respect, students should not be limited to expressing themselves as long as their speech is genuine, consistent, and transparent.

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Students who join the life on campus consider it reasonable to freely discuss things that concern and appeal to them most of all. In this respect, they can learn about issues that interest them. Discussing things and problems publicly can contribute to recognizing problems within a campus and providing possible solutions to improving quality of education.

Analyzing matters connected to quality of delivering materials by instructors, discussing different learning and teaching techniques, and offering solutions to more effective scheduling of an academic curriculum should not be ignored by college administrators. Even more, this should be the core concern of each university/college.

In this respect, Downs (2006) mentions the philosophy of educational establishments, where “the function of the University is to seek and to transmit knowledge and to train student in the process whereby truth is to be made known” (p. 4). Therefore, each college/university should have deep faith in intelligence and knowledge and, therefore, it should be more concerned with the ways to improve transparency of considering questions that gave rise to intellectual development rather than to passionate exposition of beliefs and thoughts.

Restricted expression and limited possibilities for expressing thoughts and ideas does not contribute to developing and improving of norms and values to college activities. Students should openly discuss the issues and identify existing problems, especially when it comes to racial and sexual discrimination. In fact, there should be distinction between passionate and subjective assaults of sexual and racial minorities (Leo, 2011, p. 187).

For instance, explicit debates on sexual and gender oppression will not contradict the existing moral and ethical codes. On the contrary, it introduces clarity and enhances the importance of the critical issue. As an example, Donna Shalala, a counselor of the University of Wisconsin, proved to be a rigorous advocator of speech restrictions on campus. In fact, the established code was quite primitive because it spread nothing, but horror and ignorance among students (Leo, 2011, p. 190).

In this respect, discrimination can be the result of those restrictions because impossibility to explore the roots of the problem can prevent from solving speech problem in a transparent way. In contrast, an overt approach to expressing opinions can bring shifts to solving the challenging problems of racial, social, and gender discrimination. Ignorance of the problem can be the result of prohibition imposed on free speech on campus.

Restriction measures taken by educational establishments can make students fearful of freely expressing their positions and opinions concerning urgent issues. In this respect, many students may find it irrational to be interested in the social and political life on campus because it can have a negative impact on the academic process.

However, students should realize that free speech should not infer the struggle between several political parties, but provide an objective and unbiased representation of their ideological, political, and educational views on life in a college.

However, it is important to note that dishonest and biased representation of thought should be discouraged and controlled to avoid conflicts among students. Both liberal and conservative views should keep aside from students’ rights to express their thoughts and choose which part they should protect (Leo, 2011).

In particular, most importantly, universities should not underestimate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, especially when educators apply to the law for their personal interests. As an example, Leo (2011) provides the case with Reebok, when the University signed a contract, promising not to express negative comments about the quality of footwear. This is the case when restricted freedom of speech negatively influences the policies and welfare of universities in whole.

In conclusion, students should have the right to express themselves freely unless it is a dishonest and subjective assault having no evidence. Students should be able to protect their rights and freedoms and apply to existing tools and laws supporting their positions. Therefore, while expressing themselves, they should be aware of the effects. More importantly, there should be a free speech should be independent of any political party, though students have the right to join either of political wings.

References

Downs, D. A. (2006). Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus. UK: Cambridge University Press.

Goshgarian, G. (2011). What Matters in America. Canada: Pearson Education Canada.

Leo, J. (2011). Free Inquiry? Not on Campus. In G. Goshgarian (Ed.), What Matters in America. Canada: Pearson Education Canada, pp. 184-193.

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