School: University of Colorado- Boulder
Major: Business Administration
Summer Internship: Speech First
What were your expectations for the learning environment at CU-Boulder before you started college? How has your experience lived up to those expectations?
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect as I was naive to the free speech problems plaguing our universities. I believed I was about to embark on a four-year journey where I would be exposed to various viewpoints and have intellectually stimulating conversations. In my business classes, that has mostly been true. However, the learning environment fostered by student clubs on campus, school administrators, and our student body president was drastically different. All these entities work hand in hand to push left leaning viewpoints that align with the mainstream narrative we see today. They seek to push a group-think agenda and shame those who share a differing perspective. They brand this learning environment as one that is inclusive, but it is anything but.
You were physically assaulted for wearing a conservative hat on campus! Tell us what happened and how the school responded.
Yes, I was assaulted and verbally abused by some fellow students on campus for wearing a hat with a political slogan on it. I was walking around on what we CU-Boulder students call the Hill, which is a neighborhood near our university, when a female student began to run toward me shouting, “f*ck you, f*ck you, f*ck you.” She then proceeded to rip the hat off my head and continuously punched me. Again, this was simply because I was wearing a political hat that differed from her own political beliefs.
The worst part was that she didn’t even bother to engage in a civil conversation with me before turning to violence. This inability to rationally discuss opposing views is, in part, the fault of school administrators who have cultivated a hostile learning environment for students like me. Afterwards, I was stunned and in total disbelief. I had never been punched before, and I had never felt so vilified- especially over completely valid beliefs.
This violent behavior would never be tolerated in regular society, but universities have normalized discrimination against any views that don’t fit within their progressive worldview. As upset as I was, I didn’t want to go through the complex process of reporting the incident because I wasn’t even sure the school would have my back. As a result, the female student got away with punching me. I no longer believe that academic elites at public institutions have students’ best interests in mind; they are only interested in furthering their own agenda, even if that means stifling both freedom of thought and freedom of speech.
College students are self-censoring in large numbers on campuses across the country. Why do you think that’s true? What are some contributing factors?
I believe college students are self-censoring more than ever due to exact situations like the one I detailed above. Students fear a hateful reaction by their fellow peers, professors, and administrators. If I disagree with my friends, will they still like me? Or will they unfriend me and shame me on social media? If I share this opinion or write this in my essay, will my professor grade me fairly? If I go to my school administrators for help, will they even support me if I’m not on the “right” side? The number one contributing factor to the self-censorship we’re seeing is fear. We have slowly created a less and less tolerant society by shielding people from the basic facts and perpetuating one singular “truth.” But the reality is, there are many truths, many sides, and many perspectives to be heard. However, anti-free speech activists make it difficult for particular students to find the courage to speak up. Many would rather keep their differing opinions to themselves and avoid confrontation than challenge the mainstream ideology that a handful of entities are loudly pushing.
How can we instill the importance of free speech into college students who are told that tolerance is more important than speech?
Those who believe tolerance is more important than speech do not understand the purpose of free speech. While speech can at times be harmful or offensive, the goal is that hopefully through more speech two individuals can reach a sense of understanding and see where the other person is coming from. Our right to free speech, outlined in the First Amendment, is a pillar of American society, and it’s one of the many reasons as to why we are such a unique country. This constitutional right should be cherished and valued. While today universities may be censoring hurtful speech that you deem as intolerant, tomorrow it may be speech that you deem as perfectly acceptable. Censorship is censorship and any form of it should be completely denounced. This is why free speech is so critical. The alternative is to have a strictly controlled and censored media like that of China or North Korea. Our right to think critically and express ourselves freely is vital to who we are as a nation, and we should not jeopardize that in the name of tolerance.
You participate in a peer-to-peer mentoring program at CU-Boulder. What advice do you have for students who feel silenced on campus because of their political or ideological opinions?
The biggest piece of advice I would offer is to become so extraordinarily educated on your beliefs and opinions that you become confident enough to speak up and out against those silencing you. And when you are met with opposition and the stifling of your speech, fight back with facts. Arguments led by feelings and emotions don’t get very far. It’s scary to speak up, especially in today’s society, I get it. But I’d say try your very best to find like-minded individuals and exert your speech towards a cause that will be productive. Try to engage people in civil conversations and start a healthy dialogue. Even if you don’t change the other person’s mind (which you most likely won’t) at least they have heard your individual perspective, which is just as important. Most importantly, stay hungry, think critically, keep other’s thinking, and be the change you wish to see in the world.