This is SUPER SUPER EXTRA LONG. First off, I want to be clear that I believe an executive order on free speech is completely ridiculous. This right is already protected by the constitution and there is ZERO crisis at colleges and universities. It is complete and total bullshit. Just because people do not like what you are saying does not mean that your free speech is in danger. Did you get arrested for what you are saying? No? Then your freedom of speech is JUST FINE.
I have worked at a university since I was 18. I started first as a student assistant, then was staff, then moved on to administration and I now work in a university president’s office. I have seen many sides of this issue in these various roles, and I have thought about these issue as a very conservative Christian and now as a liberal I don’t know what. I have also been involved in complaints at all levels and by faculty, students, and staff. With our university president, I lead our crisis management team that plans for and prepares for events that we think might cause disruption, so I spend A LOT OF TIME professionally involved in these issues.
I live in California and work at a liberal leaning campus that is highly diverse in terms of ethnicity, ability, socioeconomic status, culture, religion, politics, nationality, sexuality, identity, and pretty much any category you can think of. We are located in a moderately liberal city that neighbors one of the conservative areas of the state. I certainly thought of California as a mega-liberal blue state before moving here, but I now understand that it has a significant population that identifies as Republican, and we are right where the blue meets the red.
I share all of this to give context for where I am coming from here. A lot of my colleagues are conservative Republicans and a good number of our students are as well. We have to find ways to work together effectively to make our university the best place it can be, and while we often have philosophical and political differences, we come together to serve our students and support them. I do my best to be thoughtful in what I say and I know that not everyone in a meeting feels exactly as I do.
On our campus we have numerous student groups who represent infinite number of student interests and identifies. They go from the far right to the far left, the super religious to the anti-religion, etc. These students hold meetings, table in high traffic areas, and invite speakers. All of this is great and we support their right to do their thing and share their beliefs. Our top priority is ALWAYS the safety of our students and campus community. That includes the safety of students carrying “BUILD THE WALL” banners across campus, students preaching evangelical gospel in the quad, students carrying pro-life posters, and students shouting truly hateful things at other students. They all have the right to be out there and they all deserve to do it safely – regardless of how we (campus administration) feels about the message.
We ask that students and groups reserve space (including outdoor areas) so that they are guaranteed a spot, but also so that we have a chance to ensure that our police department is aware in case they believe that a security presence is necessary. Often, it is. And the police are there to protect both sides because when you are 22 things get HEATED very quickly. Anyone who is a registered student organization can reserve space as part of their yearly allotment, and outside organizations can reserve space at cost (we cannot “gift” state funds).
Anyone can show up any time without a reservation and do their thing outside at no cost as long as they are not in a space that was previously requested. They have to follow our time, place and manner rules that require that pathways are not obstructed and amplified sound does not disturb classrooms, but mostly you can be out there screeching your heart out about whatever. Just the other day I had someone outside my window yelling “WHORES” at every woman who passed and since I am not in an academic building, then that was that human’s right.
Problems arise when we do not know a group is coming and they decide to plant themselves in the middle of the sidewalk shouting “Get the f*ck out of my country” at every person of color who passes them by. They are within their rights to do that, but others are also within their rights to be mad about it. And that, to me, is where this nonsense executive order comes into play.
We recently had some students set up shop in front of our library to “debate and discuss” free speech. What ended up happening was them yelling at brown students to “go back to where they came from” with a litany of really hateful language hurled at students. Things got feisty because as much as I wish everyone would ignore people who show up just to cause drama, I know that is hard. It is hard to hear hateful and bigoted insults hurled toward you or your friends and ignore it. And a lot of people are over your “free speech.” They are sick of your hateful shit and are no longer going to stand by silently while you are an ass.
Those students who were there to “discuss” free speech then contacted our office demanding an apology and threatening to sue. For what? They got to stand out there for three hours yelling whatever they please. We had our police there in case things became physical, but they were angry that people were shouting at them. I have watched hours of video of this interaction and a big part of me just wants to laugh. For all the snowflake name-calling of the left, those guys could not handle their toxicity being served back at them.
We have another group coming next week that I am already losing sleep over. They are planning to be in our most crowded area of campus to “discuss” the second amendment, affirmative action, immigration policy, and free speech. All of the comments on their posts are about them “gearing up” to “piss off the snowflakes.” Okay, fine. They are coming with the intent of causing a negative interaction and upsetting people, and they are within their right to do that. The disconnect is happening when they then get upset that they are surrounded by people shouting back at them. Suddenly, they claim that they are being silenced and bullied.
You can’t have it both ways. And, maybe the people complaining the loudest about their views being unwelcome could take some time to think about why that is. People arguing with your or ignoring you is the not the same as you being denied free speech. There’s a reason people do not want to hear it. It is toxic and hateful and accomplishes nothing. Students are here to go to school. They should not have to be accosted on their way to class by someone screaming insults and obscenities at them.
I recently spoke to a student in my office who was frustrated that he did not feel like people listened to him or respected him because he was conservative. Viewpoints he had expressed in class that received negative reactions were that “Black people should just get over it” (what “it” is I am not sure, but there is a lot of IT for Black people in this country to deal with), “there is no such thing as genocide,” “married women should only get to use birth control if their husband approves it because it otherwise pre-abortion (OMG WHAT),” and “people who get killed by the police probably deserved it.” Now, there are plenty of places where those statements are probably just fine. This place is not it. The students in the class were angry and called him out. The professor calmed the class down and got them back on track, but the student felt that he was owed something because no one agreed with him or let him rant on unchallenged. What is he owed? He said what he wanted to say, and others disagreed. Deal with it. Do not say things you are not up to defending.
I also think it is incredibly dangerous for the federal government to implement this executive order because there are no guidelines for enforcement. What do we do to comply? We already have a myriad of speakers and guests who speak on a topics across the entire political landscape. We have conservative speakers who lecture on a variety of topics EVERY SINGLE WEEK without issue or drama. I have attended several of them and found them incredibly interesting.
I continue to see the narrative that “conservative” speakers are silenced on campus through various methods (security shut down, being asked to leave, being shouted over), and a lot of them are. It’s not because they are a conservative, it’s because those specific folks are assholes. The conservative speakers who come to campus to speak and hold professional or intellectual events do not have issues. There are not protests. There is not drama. So, quit pretending your assholery is conservatism or free speech because that is a lie. It’s you being a jerk and then having the audacity to cry foul when people have a negative reaction. This is all a bullshit game for the sake of drumming up a false crisis.
I cannot walk across campus without hearing a cacophony of thoughts and opinions that I find morally repugnant and hateful. We have a guy with a damn megaphone who just stands there all day yelling nasty things at students. It’s infuriating, but it is his right. The insults and hate that I hear hurled at our marginalized and vulnerable student populations makes me want to punch some of these people in the face. I don’t, but I want to. I cannot imagine waking up every day to go stand on a college campus for the soul purpose of cruelty under the guise of free speech.
I do not understand how we can have a executive order demanding the protection of our free speech, yet the same man who signed it thinks that athletes should possibly be deported for peacefully kneeling. You can’t have it both ways! And the reason that people like Milo Yiawhatshisfaceasshat get shut down is because of security. He purposely plans inflammatory speaking topics to anger people, and it works concerns. I wish people would ignore him, but I also know a lot of people feel morally compelled to speak out against him.
Have you ever seen him speak? He sucks. He’s neither charismatic nor interesting. Student groups get conned into paying him a lot of money for nothing. His goal is to get the event cancelled for the media coverage. There are infinite numbers of outstanding conservative speakers and scholars who can be invited to delve into these topics. Do not pay all of your hard earned money to bring a guy who is out for his own fame and wallet. He is a scam artist who has turned hate speech into money. STOP PAYING HIM.
What is super crappy is that universities bear the financial cost of these events. We are responsible for all security costs at events and cannot charge one group more than another group because we think they need more police presence. When someone like Milo comes, we have to hired additional police and buy barricades to keep crowds controlled. Things are usually peaceful for the most part, but we also get some of the same folks who stirred up shit in Berkeley and caused damage. They come to be a problem, and Berkeley had damage estimated at $100,000.
We spend tens of thousands of tax-payer dollars on police for events because we want our campus and students protected. So much wasted money because someone wanted to invite a hack who comes to make his own drama. I live in absolute fear of what happened in Charlottesville and the danger those students were in. We cannot and do not deny speakers, and we bear the burden of the costs to try and keep our campus community safe.
Another issue floating around in Texas is the bill that would require public universities to allow anyone and everyone to post on campus. We are university and our priority is our campus community. That means student and campus groups can post flyers in designated areas (you know, like not on our trees or taped on the sidewalk). If you are an outside group, then we charge you because it is advertising. We want that space primarily used for our campus groups (including conservative organizations!), and if anyone can paper the campus, then we lose all visibility. It is bad enough already that we are CONSTANTLY getting papered with unapproved flyers, stickers, and brochures from white supremacy groups. At least now we can remove them and throw them away since they are not a campus group, but no one should have to see that garbage propaganda on their way to class.
I wish we could have more civil debates about politics. I wish that we could sit down and calmly discuss our differences. Unfortunately, I do not know how that is possible in this current inflammatory climate. The nastiness coming out of the White House has set a precedent that free speech is now also freedom from human decency. It is not fine. You can say it, but no one has to like you, respect you, or calmly reply to you. You have a right to say it, and I have a right to say whatever I like back (barring threats of violence of course). So, if Trump really wants to do this free speech thing, then he needs to stop the petulance about people being mean to him and the press mistreating him. It’s all free speech, baby!
At the end of the day, I will always do anything to protect the rights and privileges of our students, faculty, and staff. I believe in giving students the opportunity to learn effective civil engagement, marching, and protesting for what they believe – no matter my personal feelings. I want everyone to have the space to share their beliefs, but if people were a bit more considerate about what they were screaming through a megaphone, then maybe they would not feel like no one is listening or that they are getting an overly hostile response. JUST BE THOUGHTFUL. Thank you and bless you if you read this entire thing.