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Limiting Free Speech on Campus

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Caitlin Stein
August 20, 2018


In a time when the fight for censorship has reached a great high, our college campuses are losing credibility and purpose. A college is a place to teach young adults how to think for themselves, reach critical conclusions and learn understanding and empathy for those around them. Without a commitment to free expression, colleges hinder the growth and understanding of students. These students are taught a single linear method of thought and fail to be pushed to question other views to better understand their surroundings.

What is Censorship?

Censorship at campuses often comes in the form of one group wanting to silence another group but expecting their own views to be accepted. An example of this scenario was seen at Evergreen State University when a group stated that white students should not come to campus on a specific day and a professor spoke out against that request. That professor was accused of being racist and the students demanded his resignation. Censorship on campus is also seen in the form of intimidation. Years ago, several varying groups of students would congregate on the grasses of the campus and promote or protest differing viewpoints. In the current political climate, those who disagree are often ostracized and even face violence for their views.

Examples of Censorship on Campus

Many would argue that college campuses do not limit expression. They should be directed to review the rules of each campus which mandates conduct. According to The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), many of these rules of conduct specifically prohibit constitutionally protected speech. The rules of conduct in question reference behaviors that violate “generally accepted” values or principals (University of Northern Colorado, New York University, Chicago State University), use “gender stereotyping” (Virginia Tech, Penn State) and cause “emotional distress” (Brown University, Brandman University). In short, the rules of conduct can construe that the smallest of harms is against the code of conduct based on the receiver’s feelings on the matter. As a result, professors fail to adequately teach for fear of formal complaints, reprimand or termination.

Speakers who visit campuses often come with armed guards and escorts. Many speakers fight to speak over protestors in the front rows who yell, pull fire alarms and threaten harm. These issues have occurred during big-name presentations from people such as Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulos, going so far as to cause campuses to disinvite speakers who have differing views.

The Effects of Censorship on Campus

Censorship harms the ability of students to learn by restricting their knowledge and experiences. College is an essential part of creating a young adult’s ability to learn to cope in the real world. If campuses continue to cater to students and even promote, “safe spaces” and “cry closets,” these students are going to fall well under par in readiness for the real world. Many times, the problem with censorship in college is that it is implemented based on feelings, rather than factual data.

Censorship on campus also affects the viability of university research. The federal government spent $68.8 billion dollars in university research in 2015. The government specifically requires that university-based research be free of bias and remain objective. If a campus is actively censoring the students, the research paid for by tax dollars for the health and wellbeing of American citizens will be skewed and unreliable.

If censorship continues, America will successfully breed intolerance to differing views and opinions and a form of anti-liberty for the people. Campuses are creating our next generations of politicians, lawyers, etc. A study done in 1975 by Steven Worchel and published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology proved that censorship caused different reactions based on whether students thought they were being treated positively or negatively. When treated negatively, students naturally averted themselves from the communication. When a student’s professor tells them that the censorship is a necessity, students are willing to accept that the professor knows best.


America was founded on the basis that there are certain rights that we are granted by living and breathing. As America has grown, practitioners have entered leading roles who want to filter or limit the rights and freedoms that are unalienable. In doing so, they have started in a place that molds the future of America by limiting the expression and creativity of young adults: college. Students in college are often finding themselves and what they represent, only to be stifled and trained to an agenda.

In conclusion, censorship should be removed from colleges due to the effects of limiting learning and experience. If someone is only taught what is generally accepted without questioning the unaccepted, they fail to learn to understand differences and formulate opinions. This also causes students to fail to learn the skills of deduction and reasoning that are much needed in the everyday workforce.

Author: Dr. Caitlin P. Stein, DPA. Caitlin Stein graduated with her Doctorate in Public Administration in 2017 and supervises the legal team with a locally owned finance company. She is a mother of two boys, happily married and a freelance writer in between. [email protected]

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