In her 2016 convocation speech, Brown University President Christina Paxson explained that a reporter had recently asked school officials if Brown had established any “safe spaces” on campus. “What on earth are they referring to?” Paxson said. “Idea-free zones staffed by thought police, where disagreement is prohibited?”
Yes, precisely such spaces. Sadly, this kind of challenge to campus free speech is now widespread. Surveys show that student support for restrictive speech codes and speaker bans is at historic heights.
Violent protests have shut down speakers on campuses across the country, and administrators are not standing up to protect speakers’ and students’ First Amendment rights. As both a deeply held commitment and a living tradition, freedom of speech is dying on our college campuses and is increasingly imperiled in society at large.