In the Supreme Court case Whitney v. People of State of California
(1927), the Supreme Court judges upheld Charlotte Whitney’s case under the grounds of freedom of speech. The Supreme Court stated that “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.” This quote brings me to the topic of my project: the erosion of free speech on college campuses. My general goals are to interview college students in University City about their thoughts on free speech, hate speech, and dissenting views on college campuses.
I am interested in this topic because I, like most anyone in the world, have some unpopular opinions. It is concerning, to say the least, that colleges and college students are so intolerant to those views that there are riots and cancellations when people come to speak. I want to spread the message that words are not violence, therefore should not be retaliated with violence.
The Brookings Institute gathered data from college campuses and it isn’t surprising what they found, but it was still disturbing. According to the Brookings Institute, 41% of Democrats thought that hate speech was NOT protected by the 1st Amendment, even though it is. Another 15% of Democrats don’t know whether it is or whether it isn’t. That 56% of Democrats being misinformed is what I want to help change. I want to inform people on what their rights are and what is and what isn’t protected speech.
A story I would like to share exposes how far this has gone. At Evergreen State College in Washington last year, the administration asked white people to leave the campus. Biology Professor Bret Weinstein objected to an involuntary “Day of Absence” because he felt it was racist and inflicted on his freedom of speech. He said, “On a college campus, one’s right to speak - or to be - must never be based on skin color.” Professor Weinstein was met with 50 students yelling over him, asking him to resign, calling him racist, and even a Nazi. The students blocked him when he tried to leave and blocked the entrances to the college president’s office with furniture. This story and Professor Weinstein’s interviews led me to look into the statistics and other research about student intolerance.
My research has quantified what I already knew. I knew people were uninformed about the 1st Amendment, but the research has made it evident. I hope to learn more about ways to increase tolerance and nonviolence.