Campus protests highlight importance of free speech protections

CONFLICT ON CAMPUS. Student protests on college campuses have filled the news recently, though student demonstrations at universities are nothing new. Free speech, including the right to protest, is one of the core values of American democracy and must be upheld on its college campuses.
CONFLICT ON CAMPUS. Student protests on college campuses have filled the news recently, though student demonstrations at universities are nothing new. Free speech, including the right to protest, is one of the core values of American democracy and must be upheld on its college campuses.
Ivy Evans

Tents filling university quads. Large flags and colorful banners waving in the air. Images of campus protests have sparked debate over whether these are depictions of free speech or hate speech, and what constitutes a peaceful protest. While their message may be controversial, students’ right to protest holds value.

In the U.S., freedom of speech is a core principle, protected under the First Amendment. Protesting is just one of the many ways Americans can convey their beliefs. It is important that students protesting at universities are still included in the protection of freedom of speech that this country upholds.

Protests combat the normalization of a conflict.

— Gavin Leuthold

Protests combat the normalization of a conflict. As a war stretches on, it fades in urgency in the public discourse. There are so many global conflicts that many will quickly forget about one and move on to the next.

Protesting at universities challenges this ignorance and shines a light on previously overlooked issues. Furthermore, college campuses have long been a place for student expression.

In the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement at colleges pushed against segregation and advocated for human rights. During the Vietnam War, student protests helped bring anti-war objectives to light among the public. This movement contributed to the U.S. signing the Paris Peace Accords in 1973, ending the war.

More recently, the #MeToo movement on college campuses and beyond, which began in 2006 and grew in popularity in 2017, has changed the conversation around sexual harassment and pushed universities to institute stricter policies.

The ongoing protests surrounding the Israel-Hamas war are not unique in their expression on college campuses; as such, protestors’ rights should be upheld as were the rights of students participating in earlier movements.

Students’ right to protest cannot be taken away even when it disrupts events such as graduation. Since the protests push administrators to take certain actions, it is essential that people are able to protest their opinions regardless of the side of the conflict they align with until they reach agreements or compromises with those in power.

It is important to continue respectful discussions about how communities, particularly universities, can balance free speech with events and peoples’ desire to continue with their daily lives.

The main counterargument is that the ongoing protests are invoking hate speech and violence. It is important to only tolerate protesting at universities if the support for a certain cause or sympathy for a particular side does not include calls for violence towards another group of people.

Hate speech at protests distracts from the overall message urging change, and therefore takes away from the movement. Student protests are protected under the First Amendment, bring light to global problems, and push administrators to take action. Tolerate campus protests. Reject hate speech. Allow peaceful protests to occur at universities because free speech must be valued and supported.

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  • S

    SJun 24, 2024 at 11:00 am

    Fantastic article! Thought provoking.

    Reply