November 26, 2019
By Lindsay Lawrence
It may seem like an unlikely pairing: a comedian and a conservative talk radio host. But Adam Carolla and Dennis Prager have been teaming up to put the spotlight on free speech issues on college campuses across the country. Their new documentary “No Safe Spaces” is a must-watch.
Highlighting the turn of the nation’s college campuses towards expanding safe spaces and the potential danger that this would pose towards the First Amendment, the two men set out to prove just why we ought to embrace unpopular or controversial speech, rather than run from it. The fact that they focus on real stories from universities across the country is reason enough for young adults and anyone that cares about free speech to watch this film.
Universities are attempting to squash speech that offends members of campus communities, but what is considered “offensive” speech depends on the individual. If college is supposed to enlighten a student and expand their worldview, preparing them to start a career and their life as an adult, it must set an example for how the real world might affect those students, and that includes exposing them to speech they disagree with. Prager and Carolla realized this as they documented the stories of individuals that simply wanted to take advantage of their free speech rights but were shut down by students and college faculty alike.
UC Berkeley graduate Isabelle Chow, featured in the documentary, spoke about her experience of getting kicked out of campus organizations for refusing to affirm LGBTQ identities as a member of the student senate. “I disagreed with the majority of the bill that asked me to affirm an LGBTQ-plus identity as good and to support LGBTQ-plus organizations on campus,” Chow said, while also noting that she was “openly Christian” when she ran for senate on campus. The students that were aware of her vote against the bill verbally harassed Chow until she resigned.
It is sad when the freedom that our nation has worked so hard to protect is taken for granted by its people. No one ever said that the First Amendment would always be pretty. There will forever be people that hold beliefs that differ from the ones others hold, but with free speech comes the ability to form and express your own opinions—and the responsibility to let others have that same right.
This is why the Goldwater Institute works to protect the First Amendment on college campuses. In 2017, Goldwater introduced a model bill designed to ensure free expression within America’s public university systems. The Goldwater model legislation does several things, including creating an official university policy that strongly affirms the importance of free expression, nullifying any existing restrictive speech codes in the process, preventing administrators from disinviting speakers, no matter how controversial, and establishing a system of disciplinary sanctions for students and anyone else who interferes with the free speech rights of others. Several states have passed or are considering legislation inspired by the model bill.
We all must work to ensure that the First Amendment will always remain an integral part of our future. “No Safe Spaces” opens our eyes to the fate of the American educational system if we allow ourselves to simply sit back and watch as free speech protections vanish.
Lindsay Lawrence is a Ronald Reagan Fellow at the Goldwater Institute.