I’m a Conservative College Student. The First Amendment Is Dying on Campuses Like Mine.

free speech first amendment conservative collegeAs a conservative columnist for my campus newspaper, it’s not unusual for me to be derided and accused of hate by leftist students.

Some have been calling for my firing ever since I started writing. I’m a mainstream conservative-libertarian. Apparently, that is beyond the pale.

Campuses are lively places, full of debate on political, social, and religious topics. But new ideological boundary lines have been drawn, and their crossing is met with reproach, accusations of hate, and even violence.

In March, a professor at Middlebury College in Vermont was hospitalized after protesters disrupted a speech by the social scientist Charles Murray.

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter also felt the wrath of campus extremism when threats of violence prompted the University of California, Berkeley to cancel her speech.

These events and others have marked the erosion of the free speech at colleges that were once lauded for their commitment to it. On today’s campuses, anyone with a remotely controversial idea comes under attack. Why?

Millennials seem to have a problem with free speech.

In a study by the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of millennials agreed that “the government should be able to prevent people publicly making statements that are offensive to minority groups.”

The study found that today’s youth are much more likely than their parents and grandparents to support the suppression of controversial speech—a fact that young conservatives like me know all too well.

The hate mail, electronic diatribes, personal attacks, and threats I faced during my freshman year at the University of Massachusetts Amherst would make you think I’d done something horrible. In reality, all I’d done was write in The Collegian, the school paper—columns arguing against the sanctuary campus movement, safe spaces, political correctness, and overzealous cultural appropriation policies.

But what has fueled this hostility toward alternate ideas?

It’s simple: College campuses, once lively places of debate and controversy, have come under the tyranny of groupthink. In an age defined by diversity, we’ve left no space for differences that go deeper than the skin.

Some professors blatantly teach their opinion as fact and belittle the few students who don’t subscribe to their gospel of leftism.

The result? College classrooms that used to be places of robust conversation now cultivate a spirit of complacency. Institutions of higher education are complicit in fostering a culture of comfort—and in doing so, they are doing students a disservice.

The real world can be an ugly place where college graduates are regularly confronted by ideas they disagree with and things they find offensive.

College campuses are not that way. They’ve become “safe spaces,” where students are sheltered from the very expansion of their worldview that is meant to be the purpose of their education.

At Wellesley College, six professors suggested that the university set up a “censorship committee” in order to make sure that “guest speakers with controversial and objectionable beliefs” were barred from campus. In 2015, the president of Northwestern University, Morton Schapiro, took to The Washington Post to write that “we all deserve safe spaces.”

On my own campus, some professors responded to the election of Donald Trump by bringing therapy dogs to class and giving out free hugs. The desire to shield students from offense has stymied the debate that actually prepares them for life in the real world.

Students are being taught that opposing viewpoints are akin to intellectual violence and that “provocateurs” like me are basically assailants.

Free speech is dying on campus, but millennials aren’t the ones killing it. Guilt lies with the institutions that have chosen to coddle students when they should be challenging them.

One reason conservative speech garners such violent responses is that students aren’t used to hearing ideas they disagree with. On today’s campuses, liberal professors outnumber their conservative counterparts 12 to 1, even though the general public consists of more self-identified conservatives than liberals.

For all our talk about minority inclusion, we haven’t addressed the under-representation of nearly half the political population. Students have gotten used to their side of the story, and have no tolerance for anyone who rationally challenges them.

In his question, my friend hit upon the tensions that are dividing college campuses like never before. For me, the current climate means that I’ll keep getting anonymous hate mail in my inbox.

But in the meantime, universities are creating a generation so hostile to free speech that the First Amendment has more than idle threats to worry about.

From - The Daily Signal - by Bradley Polumbo

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Laura Curb,PhD
4 years ago

Dear Student: Politely ask each professor you have:”Inyour classroom are we free to ask questions?” Probably he will say yes. Then ask; “In your classroom are we free to present opposing views without being ridiculed?” Stay polite and non-controversial as you ask these questions. If the answer is negative, then be quiet; if positive, ask very meekly “Help me understand what your function is.”

Diane S Sanfilippo
4 years ago

This is a generation that cannot communicate if they don’t have a cellphone in their hands! They cannot appropriately or clearly express themselves or even carry on a conversation, pro or con their own beliefs or without using extreme profanity. My own grandchildren have not been taught to respect or stay in contact with their families, even their parents cannot talk to them unless they ‘text’. I DO NOT text – nor do I have any desire to do so since, at my age, conversation is about ‘speech’, and friendship, and love for family and country. If they don’t get it at home, the last place they will get it is at school since the institutions are so frightened by lawsuit or ‘riots’
or ultra liberal teachers. Far too few young people attend church or have any beliefs that are not contradictory to our country’s best interests.
I truly fear for this world as, eventually, these non-communicative, profanity spewing mutants will be running our world!

Laura Curb,PhD
4 years ago

a very good reason to preserve the second amendment

Diane S Sanfilippo
4 years ago
Reply to  Laura Curb,PhD


4 years ago

Not a surprise here, these millennials have been “coddled” their entire lives. … Just watch what happens if a parent threatens their child with a spanking. Now spanking is considered child abuse. Millennials today with their many tattoos will be in for a rude awakening when they discover that those tattoos are not the image of the companies they will seek employment from. Good luck to them!

4 years ago
Reply to  Rik

Hi Rik,

Their tattoos are just one issue that hinders their future employment or should I say lack thereof. Although many HR departments today will point out that you can’t dismiss an applicant solely for having tattoos unless the position they are applying for would be customer facing and would be of such an excessive nature as to be disruptive to being able to conduct business normally. Yes, that is the new, politically correct standard in corporate America these days.

Many Millennials show up for job interviews as if they were going to be going out with their friends for drinks or the beach. They seem to think that the business world should change its standards to accommodate them and their personal preferences. They usually get shown the door in under two minutes. Those that do dress properly at least get to phase one of the interview process. About 75 to 80 percent of Millennials seem to have a problem articulating their thoughts in a clear and concise manner. In the business world, this is kind of a critical attribute to possess. That was a bit of sarcasm. About half start every sentence with “You know” or “Well yeah”. A lot of communication with customers or clients is also in writing. Lets just say that many speak better than they write. I won’t even get into the area of problem solving skills. A number of jobs in the industry I used to work in required the ability to access problems and quickly come up with one of more viable, practical solutions to address the problem(s) and then correct assess which one is the most appropriate based a number of variables (time, cost, etc.). Many Millennials seem to have been conditioned to avoid anything that challenges their pre-conceived notions, so they generally are lacking big-time in this area.

Bottom line: While most college students may graduate with degrees, what they are functionally prepared to do in the real world, at an entry level position, is quite limited. They are all up on the latest social movements and causes, but their attitudes and skills are sorely lacking. If a company is going to spend the time and money to essentially mentor and train their new hires for a hopefully long-term career with the company, there has to be more on the side of the new hire than the desire to make the most money for the least amount of hours and effort expended.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x