Colleges should 'censor' 'unsafe' speech, student op-ed argues

Colleges should “screen” speakers to ensure that they are not giving a platform to “intolerant perspectives,” a University of Maryland student argues in a recent op-ed.

“There is nothing inherently wrong with screening speakers, teachers and even students on the campus,” sophomore Moshe Klein declares in an op-ed for The Diamondback, arguing that “intolerant” points of view “prevent certain groups of people from participating in campus life safely.”

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“There are important reasons to censor speech on the campus,” Klein asserts, saying for instance that students would be justified in tearing down “fascist white power posters” to protest a speech by David Duke.

At the same time, he contends that it was “reasonable” for Harvard to revoke the acceptances of incoming freshmen who participated in an offensive meme-sharing group, because such action demonstrated “that there is no space for intolerant behavior.”

He does, however, acknowledge that “in some cases, what we consider intolerant is simply a different perspective,” saying students should only “walk out” on speakers—as University of Notre Dame students did to Vice President Mike Pence at their Commencement ceremony—when they “directly advocate targeting groups and [making] them feel unsafe.”

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“That is how decisions about free speech on campus should be made, especially if campuses want to be authentically diverse and open-minded, and not just echo chambers,” he says.

Klein explained in an interview with Campus Reform that he was motivated to write his op-ed because he had been thinking often about free speech in light of how President Trump’s speech "often falls outside the parameters of acceptable discourse,” adding that he stands by his arguments.

“Speakers and teachers should be screened for hate speech—absolutely—especially on a campus like the University of Maryland, which proudly believes that every student has a ‘rightful place,’” he said, referring to the “Multicultural Philosophy” statement from UMD’s from their Department of Residential Life, which states that students have a “responsibility to recognize the rightful place of every other citizen in our community.”

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Hate speech, he explained, has no place on college campuses, because “when hate speech is used, it is an assault on the safety and security of people,” and on a college campus “would constitute an assault on the safety and security of students.”

He did concede that it is often difficult to demarcate between views that are truly dangerous for students and those that are acceptable, saying that “oftentimes, these lines are difficult to discern and we have to use our best judgement about when we move from being uncomfortable to being unsafe.”

Klein did not respond to a follow up inquiry on what he believes admins should do with speakers or professors who express speech that might make a student feel “unsafe.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen