A leader of a national group that fights for students’ rights argued a positive relationship exists between free speech on campus and a more educated society during a lecture at the University of Wisconsin Law School Tuesday night.
In his lecture titled “How Censorship is Ruining America,” Greg Lukianoff, president for Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said limiting college students’ freedom of speech on campus limits their ability to form and defend their own opinions on discourse and other public matters.
According to Lukianoff, this is crucial because education fuels society.
“Higher education works as society’s sophistication machine,” Lukianoff said.
Society, he said, will be affected if higher institutions continue to impede rights because free speech is needed to engage in meaningful thoughts in the classroom.
He argued the removal of speech rights is detrimental to students, as it denies them the ability to be a realized adult.
Lukianoff further suggested college campuses are the least tolerant places for free speech and alleged the major bureaucracies students are forced to pay into through administration systems created this problem.
This, Lukianoff said, marks a removal of constitutional rights and fits a trend where people in places of power abuse it.
Lukianoff said he included higher education administrators as people in power in his lecture. He defended this statement by saying that a large amount of administrators have the power to deem what is right and what is wrong.
For example, Lukianoff said UW and many other universities have enforced a speech code in the past. These speech codes, he argued, could allow people in power to shut down certain points of view, which would ultimately limit diverse viewpoints for students to choose from.
Lukianoff emphasized that higher education systems have failed and continue to fail their students by taking away their ability to challenge ideas. He added administrators are wrong in their assumption that students are too weak to deal with the freedoms presented to them.
UW political science professor Donald Downs said in an interview with The Badger Herald he agreed with several of the points Lukianoff made. Downs is a First Amendment expert and teaches courses on the UW campus allowing students to consider the implications of many of Lukianoff’s arguments.
“The talk reminds us how higher intuitions of higher education are failing in turning out young adults prepared for rigors of citizenship, which entails ability to handle complex and sometimes painful idea with intellectual maturity,” said Downs, who is an adviser for The Badger Herald.
He added he believes this is a problem UW is currently being faced with.
UW sophomore Sean Kennedy said while he does not believe this is a prevalent issue on campus, it was refreshing to be reminded of this freedom and how easily it can be taken away.
He added he believes more students should become aware of these issues.
“Overall, the speech was a good reminder to question policy,” Kennedy said.