President Trump on Thursday signed an executive order that requires public universities to respect the constitutionally protected free speech rights of students or lose federal research funding.
But some students clearly don’t see the need for such an order, Campus Reform confirmed in a visit to a Virginia campus.
Some insisted there’s a lot of speech that isn’t protected by the First Amendment, particularly if someone else is offended by it.
Or if “it’s, like, hateful and disrespectful to specific groups.”
This would be on top of the already recognized exemptions to protected speech: that which is threatening or causes danger, such as yelling “fire” in a crowded theater.
Campus Reforms’ Cabot Phillips went to the campus of Marymount University to ask students what kind of speech crosses the line and shouldn’t be protected.
“A number of students suggested that hateful, offensive or rude speech should not be considered free speech,” the report said.
“I think if it’s, like, hateful and disrespectful to specific groups, then that’s not OK,” said one.
“I understand you have free rights to say what you want about people but when it’s, like, negatively impacting our school as a whole and other students around you, that’s crossing the line,” said other.
Many agreed there are “some things you can’t say.”
Phillips, explained to a student that the First Amendment protects offensive speech.
“Uuhhhmm. I don’t think so,” said the student.
The president has explained his plan would “require colleges and universities to support free speech if they want federal research dollars.”
Tyson Langhover of the Alliance Defending Freedom said after the president’s order was issued that the administration “is right to recognize the threats to freedom of speech on public university campuses and the need to do something about preserving the marketplace of ideas.”
“In the course of winning more than 400 legal victories since 2006, the ADF Center for Academic Freedom has continued to encounter massive free speech and other First Amendment violations, unconstitutional policies, and many repeat offenders.
“We appreciate the administration’s understanding of this problem as well as actions it has taken to help, including the briefs that the Department of Justice has filed in support of ADF clients who have stood up for their freedoms in the face of having those freedoms jeopardized. Today’s university students will be tomorrow’s voters and civic leaders. That’s why it’s so important that public colleges and universities exemplify the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students.”
Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life of America said: “The criminalization of free speech on college and university campuses has reached epidemic proportions as simply expressing a point of view that runs counter to academic conventional wisdom can lead to ostracization and loss of basic freedoms.
“To protect our Constitutional democracy, it is vital that we teach the next generation of American leaders that the peaceful expression of opinion is not a nuisance or triggering event, but a fundamental freedom all deserve to enjoy. Citizens – even students – deserve protections for peaceful speech, especially on school campuses supported by hard-earned taxpayer dollars,” she said.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education said it has been fighting for campus speech rights for two decades, and it will be watching to see if the atmosphere improves.
“FIRE knows from years of experience that censorship silences students and faculty from across the ideological and political spectrum. Any principled and effective defense of freedom of expression must protect student and faculty expressive rights without regard to viewpoint. To secure the benefits of the ‘marketplace of ideas’ for campus communities and for our nation as a whole, all students and faculty must be free to peacefully speak their minds,” the group said.