When can universities censor students without violating free speech and the First Amendment?
Universities have always had a set of standards separate from the outside world. What might be acceptable on the streets could land a student in Dean of Students’ office. For example, flipping another driver off as he/she cuts you off does not have any repercussions and is actually seen quite often. On the other hand, a student giving their teacher the bird for not bumping their grade up will almost certainly result in consequences. Universities are allowed to do this without violating freedom of expression because they have a different set of community standards. Classrooms are a place for education and not much else, so something offensive that lies outside of this realm could be considered an obscenity. If it is preventing students from successfully learning, then the phrase or expression is obscene. The outside world does that not have this standard because it is solely devoted to learning. However, lately universities all around the country have been censoring a little too much.
A study done by Spiked Magazine released a ranking for schools in the UK highlighting which universities censored free speech the most. The report revealed that a majority of schools has “banned and actively censored” students’ free speech. In addition, Tom Slater, an editor for Spiked Magazine, revealed what some of the schools are banning. One school, he said, “Banned sombreros, and other such ‘racist’ attire”. Even groups centered around controversial debates such as abortion have been banned on campus, and students are upset. Many feel as though their freedom of speech has been violated by their universities. Although some opinions and words might be offensive, a lot of what universities censor can be used as an educational opportunity. One said that he is a “firm believer that the best way to challenge an idea is to discuss”. Universities are a place to learn not censor.
Although certain actions or words do need to be censored in the classroom, universities should not be censoring anything that seems mildly offensive. As long as it does not prevent students from learning successfully, it should not be banned. Just because something is offensive, does not mean it can not be discussed professionally and educationally. By toning down the amount of censorship, students might even be able to understand each other more effectively and create better environments within the school.
“The suppression of free speech on university campuses is reaching epidemic levels; It’s easy to laugh at students who try to ban sombreros or applause, but new free speech rankings show how their censorious megalomania is getting out of hand.” Telegraph Online, 3 Feb. 2015. Student Resources in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A400023226/SUIC?u=mono131514&xid=48fd105e. Accessed 14 Feb. 2018.
“‘Why I’m no longer looking forward to university’; Supression of free speech has transformed universities into a much less exciting prospect for sixth form students, writes Carl du Jeu.” Telegraph Online, 24 July 2015. Student Resources in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A423008194/SUIC?u=mono131514&xid=ee9f24f6. Accessed 14 Feb. 2018.