Rachael W. Michigan

The Freedom to Discuss

This letter will talk about how the freedom of speech of college students is being oppressed by the staff of said colleges and how you (the president) can aid in stopping this practice.

Dear Mr./ Mrs. Future President,

Throughout the course of the creation of the United States, there has been one right that has always been held to a high degree by the populace and government; that being the first amendment. Much like a metal, the amendment has been tarnished over time. The populace has become embroiled in the topics of hate speech, microaggressions, and the general offence of portions of the masses to the point of ignoring the right they deserve as a free citizen. It has been of little surprise to me that the great majority of these cases has occurred in the temples of knowledge that studious children hope to gain entrance to: colleges. The staff and children attending these areas of safety and pandering have decided that discourse to the majority must be eradicated in the name of appeasing those whose ancestors have been decided against in their own time. In these dens of carefully chosen words, and fear of disturbing the peace, students are made to feel inadequate and evil by the very staff they trusted to teach them the way of how to survive in a world without safe spaces or warnings for uncomfortable content. This year, the free speech group FIRE rated the speech codes of four hundred forty college schools in the United States, roughly half (two hundred seventeen) of these institutions ranked the lowest mark of red. This meant that the speech codes of those schools have statements that directly restricts the freedom of speech in the student body in direct action or in requiring special information need to access part of student information on campus. While one hundred ninety-four colleges have speech codes which contain sections that are ambiguous enough to pertain to any form of speech. Only twenty-two colleges in the United States had speech policies that could not be utilized to attack the students’ freedom of speech. These establishments of policy have even gone to the lengths of placing “free speech areas” on their campuses. Logically located quite a distance away from the foot traffic that they might offend due to their outspokenness. There have been so many documented cases of college staff oppressing the freedoms of their students that an entire organization, the afore mentioned FIRE, has been created to halt the spread of these ideals that are contrary to the basis of the United States. Three examples from their website were what really caught my eye, causing me to take on this issue. They were the cases of the free speech wall, a group of boys handing out constitutions, and the gender studies teacher who stole the pro-life signs of two minors and assaulted the younger of the two.

           The free speech wall was created by four individual student run groups on the campus of Sam Houston State University in Texas. The groups had created the wall in response to a new school policy of reviewing the private accounts of its students and taking down the ones deemed offensive. In return, the students of the college actually utilized the wall, writing what ever felt correct to them. Alas, one of the professors took umbrage with a comment made about President Obama and as such told the students to either censor their wall or take it down. The students refused either option and the professor took a box cutter to it, even the police around the school agreed with the teacher. In response, the groups took it down.

         At Modesto Junior College, a few boys were handing out copies of the Constitution of the United States in celebration of Constitution Day. This heinous act was quickly put to a stop by the altruistic campus police than told the boys to stop handing out their material due to not being, nor having rented out the designated free speech space. When confronting the office of the college the boys were simply ignored, it got to the point that FIRE had to hire a lawyer to take the college to court over its issues with the first amendment.

          The last occurrence actually ended up with a court case against a professor and her student lackeys. Two sisters were peacefully protesting the idea of pro-life ideals. At this point they had been allowed by the college to protest on campus. Along the way a highly educated gender studies teacher decided it was within her right to steal the sign the girls were using and have her student gang keep it away from the two protesters. The girls followed the thieves to their destination (an education building). By this point the two had repeatedly asked the group to return their stolen object, had attempted to physically intercept them, and were calling the police by the time they got to the elevator in the building. The younger sister (age sixteen) was blocking the elevator entrance so as to stop the door from closing and the elevator from ascending. The teacher forcefully shoved the minor out of the way of the door multiple times before finally managing to get the elevator door closed.

         Persons of authority should not be able to dictate how those of less power should think and act. For these are attributions that the speaker should hold to their own values, not to the values of others. Some may argue that types of speech such as racist slurs should be censored or that people given the power of dictating speech should have a right to only allow what is appeasing to main groups in the space to be heard. That was the main thought behind the idea of “safe spaces”, to have a place where likeminded people can run away from those who hold a differing opinion from the majority, but times are changing, now ideas like safe spaces are laughed out of the discussion as being childish; as they should. No elite ruling body with a moral high horse should be able to dictate the ideas and speech of the students when they are all gathered in one place to learn about differing opinions. Echo chambers like those created in “safe space” colleges only harm their students when they leave for the real work force, where they can not find a “safe space” to gather in nor have any warnings about disturbing content. There are roughly four thousand one hundred and forty colleges in the United States. As the president of the United States, you will not be able to stop all of them from practicing these destructive acts of oppression of speech, but the state funded colleges must adhere to the law in all possible respects and as such can be held accountable in the need arises. Situations like those stated above should not be permitted in governmentally funded schools. As a person of authority, you could encourage the schools to promote freedoms of speech and aid in steering students away from those that do not. While attempting to gain Congress's favor in moving to reinforce the standing law in the campus guidelines of colleges. Please, as President of the United States, allow college campuses to be areas of debate and discussion again.

Thank you for the consideration,

Rachael Wenzlick

Clarkston Community Schools

Eisele IB ELA 12


All letters from this group →