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Students Stand Against Hate Speech: “With Physical Violence If Necessary”

Courtesy of Mish.

A Brookings Study of college students views on the first amendment right of free speech shows some shocking trends.

Only 31% of female college students believe in the constitutional right to free speech.

62% of Democrats think it is OK to shout down speakers.

30% of male students believe violence is an acceptable response by student groups.

College students’ views of the First Amendment are of profound importance for multiple reasons. First, colleges and universities are places where intellectual debate should flourish. That can only occur if campuses are places where viewpoint diversity is celebrated, and where the First Amendment is honored in practice and not only in theory. Second, what happens on campuses often foreshadows broader societal trends. Today’s college students are tomorrow’s attorneys, teachers, professors, policymakers, legislators, and judges. If, for example, a large fraction of college students believe, however incorrectly, that offensive speech is unprotected by the First Amendment, that view will inform the decisions they make as they move into positions of increasing authority later in their careers.

College students’ views on the First Amendment are important for another reason as well: Students act as de facto arbiters of free expression on campus. The Supreme Court justices are not standing by at the entrances to public university lecture halls ready to step in if First Amendment rights are curtailed. If a significant percentage of students believe that views they find offensive should be silenced, those views will in fact be silenced.

A surprisingly large fraction of students believe it is acceptable to act—including resorting to violence—to shut down expression they consider offensive.

Q: Does the First Amendment protect “hate speech”?

Q: A public university invites a very controversial speaker to an on-campus event. The speaker is known for making offensive and hurtful statements. A student group opposed to the speaker disrupts the speech by loudly and repeatedly shouting so that the audience cannot hear the speaker. Do you agree or disagree that the student group’s actions are acceptable?


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