At the University of California Berkeley, students protested a speech being held by a controversial speaker, Milo Yiannopoulos (just to be clear I find some of his views repugnant, distasteful and mean spirited). The protest quickly turned into a riot, with protesters throwing bricks and shooting off fireworks. The riot forced the event’s cancellation. Several injuries were reported and at least four banks were vandalized after the protest. During the riot, fireworks were thrown up onto the second-floor balcony inside the venue and fires were lit outside. Yiannopoulos’s speech on campus was sponsored by the campus’s Republican club and was a sold out event (1). By rioting to the point that the event had to be canceled, the protestors attacked the freedoms of Yiannopoulos and every person who planned on attending. Unfortunately, this was not an isolated occurrence. Not long after the riots over Yiannopoulos at Berkeley, California State University Los Angeles experienced a very similar set of events.
At Marquette University, students protested conservative Ben Shapiro’s speech on campus. Again, the protest lead to smashed windows and spontaneous fires. The student group, Young Americans for Freedom, was the sponsor of Shapiro’s speech. In the scheduling of the speech, the Young Americans for Freedom hoped to give conservatives a voice on campus. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just fellow students impeding on the Young Americans freedom of speech, it was also members of the University’s faculty. In addition to the protest, one employee callously attempted to sabotage the event through Facebook. The faculty member posted in the University’s Facebook group Center for Gender and Sexualities Studies asking students, employees, and even former employees to reserve a seat as a student and then not to show up. In doing so, the employee intended to take seats away from people who actually wished to attend the event.
Unfortunately, it has become a common trend on liberal campuses to attack any speaker who isn’t politically correct. Some students feel the need to protest any thoughts and ideas that do not align with their own, resulting in a population of students who expect to always get their way and are stunned when they don’t. The election of President Trump is a prime example of this behavior. Liberal students were so confident that Hillary Clinton was going to win that when she did not, they were traumatized. As a result, Cornell University students held a “cry-in,” University of Michigan professors delayed an exam, Columbia University postponed midterms, University of Connecticut excused students from missing class, and one professor made an exam optional at Yale University (2). College campuses have created safe spaces that protect students from any form of disagreement, thus creating a bubble of identical thinking people. Instead of helping students, these bubbles act as an extreme impairment, limiting students from facing the rest of the world.
The creation of safe spaces could ultimately serve detrimental to the future of the first amendment. When these shielded students graduate, they are not going to know how to deal with controversy. They won’t be able to calmly and logically convey their ideas and emotions when people disagree with them. Students will venture into the workforce with no respect for the ideas of others who disagree with their own.
In order for the United Stated continue to be a free nation; it is imperative that we encourage the free exchange of ideas. The University of Chicago is a great example of how college campuses can support the freedoms of each student. Instead of creating safe places, trigger warnings, and free speech zones, the University of Chicago sent its students a statement addressing campus political correctness head-on. John Ellison, Dean of Students, wrote, “Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called trigger warning’s, we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own” (3).
The overall trend on university campuses for safe spaces and riots is a genuine threat to free speech. People with differing opinions should not be silenced and people should be able to discuss controversial and offensive ideas without the fear of violence. If you are confident in what you believe it shouldn’t bother you if someone else believes something different. People who resort to violence or threats are emotionally unstable and don’t care about how their actions will hurt innocent people. Colleges should not enable this kind of behavior but do everything in their power to encourage their students to listen to all ideas (even repugnant ones that Milo has) and if they disagree then learn to articulate their disagreement in a thoughtful way. The rioters who attempted to shut Milo down only gave him a bigger platform and so the views that they found repugnant where only amplified by rioting.
Written by Kaela Carpenter and Chris Reid. Ms Carpenter is a student at Samford University and can be reached at email@example.com. Mr. Reid is general practice attorney in Birmingham, Alabama. He has worked for Republican leadership in the United State House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., and was a health policy advisor to the governor of Alabama. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 205-913-7406. A description of his practice areas is available at www.reidlawalabama.com. Our firm practices the following areas of law: wills, trust, and estates, divorce and family, DUI and drug offenses (only first and second time offenses), and car accident cases. We also handle business law, including formation of business entities and drafting contracts. Additionally, I co-host Yellowhammer News every Monday during lunch from 11-12 on 101.1 fm Birmingham (but our show is broadcast throughout most of the state).
1. "Riot Forces Cancellation Of Yiannopoulos Talk At UC Berkeley." CBS San Francisco. CBS, 1 Feb. 2017. Web. 16 Feb. 2017.
2. Robby-soave. "Colleges Cancelled Exams for Students Traumatized by Trump's Election." Reason.com. N.p., 10 Nov. 2016. Web. 16 Feb. 2017.
3. Richard Pérez-Peña, Mitch Smith and Stephanie Saul. "University of Chicago Strikes Back Against Campus Political Correctness." The New York Times. The New York Times, 26 Aug. 2016. Web. 16 Feb. 2017.