This article relates to recent events involving free speech on campus.
Last week, a heinous attack against conservatism, perpetrated by a group using the handle “@AUJusticeLeague,” ignited on Twitter. Responding to students posting pro-life flyers promoting the message #DefundPlannedParenthood, the “Justice League” tore down the flyers, vandalized them, and posted a picture displaying a middle finger towards conservative leaders on campus.
While I do respect the “Justice League’s” right to voice its concerns against the flyers, I resent its forceful silencing of others’ opinions. As I stated on Twitter in response to the creation of the account, “The way to voice your own opinion is not to tear down others but to build yourself up.” With a legitimate argument, we all could engage in civil discourse. Unfortunately, some students on campus won’t engage in a respectful conversation.
AU Justice League tweeted at The Conservative Conscience Blog Editor, Andrew Magloughlin, stating, “Your ideas are complete shite.”
The theme of intolerance is not exclusive to American University, for it seems to be an emerging trend at universities across the nation. Near my home in Nevada, a similar instance occurred at the University of California-Santa Barbara. In 2014, a feminist studies professor at UCSB assaulted a young woman who distributed anti-abortion literature in a free speech zone on campus. Dr. Mireille Miller-Young, the violent professor, justified her attack by claiming that anti-abortion signs were “disturbing” and “offensive.” She claimed that “her actions were in the defense of her students and her own safety.” Regardless of theft and battery convictions stemming from the incident, Miller-Young remains a professor at UCSB.
In another occurrence at the University of Michigan, outraged students attacked Omar Mahmood for his satirical column against trigger warnings and political correctness on campus. He sarcastically sneered in a late 2014 edition of the Michigan Review:
“The University of Michigan does literally nothing to combat the countless instances of violence we encounter every day. Whenever I walk into a classroom, I can hardly find a left-handed desk to sit in. The University cannot claim to be my school while it continues to oppress me.”
In response to Mahmood’s comments, a different campus newspaper, the Michigan Daily, for which Mahmood also wrote, dissented furiously. Michigan Daily demanded that Mahmood issue an official apology because a member of their staff felt “threatened” by his words. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, an organization committed to defending free speech through legal methods, led the battle against Michigan Daily to defend Mahmood’s refusal to apologize.
Across the nation’s college campuses, a growing animosity towards civil discourse is emerging. It exists in the disguise of trigger warnings, speech codes, and free speech zones. As intelligent and educated adults, we as an AU community must allow free speech in discourse. We would not have the freedoms with which we have been blessed in the United States in the absence of an open dialogue. Without free speech, I fear that more groups like the AU Justice League will attempt to silence alternative opinions instead of debating them. Our society cannot allow differing opinions to be hushed.
As George Orwell famously declared in 1984, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”American University, campus culture, free speech, speech, speech codes, trigger warnings