What do students think about the threat to freedom of speech on campus? We visited Grand Canyon University in Phoenix for an event hosted by Young Americans for Freedom and asked that very question.

“I didn’t come to college to go with everybody else’s opinion,” one freshman remarked. “I came here to invest in myself and further my education.”

“If they invite a speaker, it’s because they want to further my education and knowledge of something. That person specifically can tell me something that will further my thinking or change my mind about this topic, even if I don’t completely agree with what they’re saying.

“Shout downs stop me from receiving that opportunity to understand a different person’s way of thinking, and it blocks me from furthering my way of thinking.”

Connor Brinton, a student and president of Grand Canyon University’s Young Americans for Freedom, says that it’s time for students to take the issue of campus free speech seriously.

“If we don’t start having this conversation, more and more people are going to look to put in restrictive speech codes,” Brinton said. “I’ve seen universities where they have reporting systems, and these reporting systems are used to go after students who aren’t following the ‘P.C. codes.’ Really, that’s a travesty.”

Dr. Timothy Larkin, a sociology professor at Grand Canyon University, spoke at the event with James Manley, an attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation and senior fellow at the Goldwater Institute. Larkin talked about whether the freedom of speech will continue into the future and what it means to engage in free speech.

“We have students that are coming with an idea about what they’re willing to engage in diverse thinking,” Larkin said in an interview prior to the event. “Tolerance has been taught so much, I believe, in the younger grades that students, when they come to this marketplace of ideas, in some ways don’t know how to handle it. So when you challenge and you say ‘let’s hear from all sides,’ I’m afraid that from a number of decades ago, we have a different type of response, and I’m very concerned about it.”

Larkin believes that one solution is to ensure that universities promote the understanding that free speech is at the core of academic pursuit and ensuring that students are able to hear from all sides.

The Goldwater Institute has proposed model legislation to help restore free speech on campus and is hosting a series of debates and events around the country to further the discussion. You can read more about the Institute’s model legislation to protect the freedom of speech at RestoreFreeSpeech.com.

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