The Department of Justice recently filed a motion to support a group of college students who are suing the University of Michigan for violating their freedom of speech.
It is the fourth time that the DOJ, under the guidance of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has filed a motion in support of those who are sanctioned, penalized or harassed by educational universities catering to students who don’t want their belief systems questioned or opposed. Even so, this case could have a major impact on colleges and universities throughout the country due to the fact that it challenges the right of educational institutions to create “bias response teams.” These teams can be found in more than one hundred educational institutions throughout the country and play a major role in regulating free speech on campus.
Given the fact that most educational institutions are liberal in nature, it is usually conservative guest speakers and students who wind up being penalized by university policies limiting free speech. However, it isn’t just conservative activists who are starting to realize that restricting certain forms of speech on campus or anywhere else is not a good idea.
As liberal writer Matt Bai accurately points out, the ability to hear and process various points of view is a must for those who want a good education. College students who are continually coddled and protected from offensive speech, ‘microaggressions’ and other perceived evils will not be prepared to face the real world where not everyone holds to a liberal point of view. Even more importantly, free speech is a fundamental, constitutional right that cannot be infringed on simply because some people happen to dislike or even hate certain forms of speech. Setting a precedent that disallows certain forms of speech in public venues is downright dangerous.
Under current university guidelines, a student could be disciplined for wearing a MAGA hat, a T-shirt, or voicing a pro-life opinion. At the same time, a conservative student could complain about another student who voices a liberal opinion on topics such as abortion, homosexuality or immigration — which usually results in the conservative student being reprimanded. What is more, any student who is upset at another student for whatever reason could make a false accusation or two accusing this student of harassment or bias, resulting in an innocent person being disciplined or even expelled.
Another big problem with many university regulations is that they are incredibly vague, making it easy for just about anyone to be accused of harassment, bullying or having a bias against another person or group of people. The University of Michigan, for instance, actually stated in its anti-bullying policy that “the most important indication of bias is your own feelings.” Furthermore, it issued speech regulations that banned harassment and bullying without defining what those terms meant, and then put in place bias response teams that seemed to have the power to discipline students.
Thankfully, UM has made some changes to its policies in the wake of the recent case by removing the ridiculous sentence about feelings being an important indicator of bias, and clarifying that the bias response team doesn’t have the power to discipline students. However, it is a shame that it took DOJ involvement in the case for faculty members to allow students common-sense freedoms that are their right under the constitution.
Free speech is clearly under attack in universities all across America. Thankfully, the Department of Justice is taking the side of free speech activists, and holding educational institutions accountable for restricting students’ rights to speak about certain issues on campus.
While there are some who feel that the DOJ is being motivated by a desire to promote conservative activism, the truth is that free speech is a right that benefits everyone. Liberals and conservatives alike win when everyone is allowed to share their opinions freely, without fear of being accused, harassed or disciplined. This is perhaps one of the most important lessons that young people need to learn today if the United States is to continue to be a free nation in the future.
~ Liberty Planet