The Battle for Free Speech on College Campuses


Friday, February 8, 2019

We are now witnessing the fruits of polarization and tribalism.

As our incessant need to lambast, vilify, and destroy our political opposition continues to grow, each successful blow tears another rip into our social fabric. We no longer seek to debate those we disagree with because our goal is no longer to change hearts and minds.Instead, we seek platforms to bash our opponents over the head with moral superiority and an attitude of righteousness that would make a Spanish inquisitor blush.

Colleges and Universities— once the last bastion of free and unfettered speech exercises— have now caved to the will of the inquisition and are pre-emptively banishing speakers and events they deem “dangerous.” Dangerousnot in the physical or immediate threat they pose to their student’s well being, but dangerous to the fragile ethos that has been cultivated under their administrative watch.

As students continue to demand that their institutions protect them from the words and ideas of others, colleges continue to impose restrictions, and, in most cases, outright ban specific kinds of speakersnotably those to the right of the political spectrum.

The latest such example is Grand Canyon University’s, the largest Christian University in the United States, now reversed decision to ban Ben Shapiro from speaking at the institution after he was invited by the University’s Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chapter. This follows a long list of universities disinviting not just Shapiro, but other conservative and right leaning speakers from campus.

To be sure, not all speakers are created equally. Some are active provocateurs seeking nothing more than agitation and the chance to “own the libs.” However, colleges and universities have failed to create a clear distinction between speakers who promote active discussion and thought during their lectures and those who are fools with a megaphone.

An event with Jason Riley or Ben Shapiro as guest speakers is a different matter than an event with Milo Yiannopoulos and John Derbyshire yet all four have been lumped together as representing the same ideas and political groups.

In their statement regarding the decision to ban Shapiro, Grand Canyon stated “Our decision to cancel Shapiro’s speaking engagement is not a reflection of his ideologies or the values he represents, but rather a desire to focus on opportunities that bring people together.”

Setting aside the obvious contradiction and hypocrisy for a minute, the idea that banning Shapiro is an effort to bring the community together implies that all sides of their community are in unison regarding the banishment. The community response, as stated by the GCU administration, reads otherwise. That a Christian institution no less, should be a part of limiting the ideas and opinions that its students hear is disappointing as Christians worldwide are faced with persecution and death for espousing their beliefs.

Would Jesus Christ have been as effective in his gospel if he disinvited or banned the Pharisees and Sadducees from attending his gatherings? Was Apostle Paul not persecuted and driven out for his beliefs over and over again in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra?

In not allowing Shapiro to speak— while simultaneously stating that they agree with several his beliefs and opinions— GCU is engaging in the worst form of cowardice. If the administration believes that Shapiro’s viewpoints have merit, and yet deny the opportunity to hear those opinions to their student body, they fail not only in their secular duty as an institute of higher learning, but in their spiritual duty as emissaries of Christ.

The Bible constantly reminds followers of Christ that we have a duty to deliver the truth, and that, if we neglect the opportunity to share the truth, we share in the blame and responsibility for those who are lost. In Ezekiel 3:17-19, and again in 1 Corinthians 3:6-9, Christians are charged with planting the seed of truth. If GCU as a Christian institution agrees— as they stated— with the core of Shapiro’s thoughts and ideals, then they have a moral obligation to allow him to speak.

The administration’s defense that having Shapiro speak promotes division and hostility on campus is not a new one. It is the same weak and spineless argument that other intuitions have used to cancel or ban right leaning speakers in recent years. If the opposition to these speakers have so little faith in the righteousness and merit of their beliefs that they cannot openly and vociferously defend them through debate, then their opinions are not worth having.

If human history has shown us anything, it is that those seeking to ban, censor and physically deter others from speaking are never on the right side of morality and justice. From Socrates and Galileo, to Martin Luther and Martin Luther King, Daisy Bates and Josephine Baker— to Jesus Christ himself— the track record of those seeking to censor the speech of others is remarkably poor. This is not to put Shapiro on an intellectual pedestal or brand him and his movement the second coming of any of these people, but to show that censorship and banishment are never the answer.

Universities have a duty to teach students how to articulate and present their ideas and beliefs without actively seeking to silence or mischaracterize your opposition. If you believe an idea or opinion to be immoral or unjust, present a better idea or evidence in support of your position.

You fight ideas with ideas, not censorship.

Tosin Akintola is a 23-year-old from Baltimore, Maryland. He graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 2017 with a B.A in Political Science and minors in Public Administration and American Politics. He spends most of his days writing articles, poetry or music or binge-watching his latest Hulu/Netflix vice.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.

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About Tosin Akintola

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Tosin Akintola is a 23-year-old from Baltimore, Maryland. He graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 2017 with a B.A in Political Science and minors in Public Administration and American Politics. He spends most of his days writing articles, poetry or music or binge-watching his latest Hulu/Netflix vice.

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