Do College Students Hate Free Speech? Let's Ask Them.Reason
Dec. 09, 2015
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The faculty council at Occidental College is considering instituting a system for students to report microaggressions perpetrated against them by faculty members or other students.
Reason TV visited Occidental's campus to find out what exactly constitutes a microaggression. One Columbia psychology professor defined the term this way: Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.
After exploring the limitations of a microaggression reporting system, we discussed broader free speech issues with the students in the wake of a month of campus protests that resulted in the resignations of several faculty members and a university president.
Most of the students defended free speech in principle, if not always in practice. This is consistent with a recent Pew Research Center survey, which found that although 95 percent of Americans agree that people should be allowed to publicly criticize government policies, support erodes when the question turns to offensive speech. While a majority of millennials still believe that the government should protect speech offensive to minorities, a whopping 40 percent believe the government should restric such speech.
"If you say 'You're less of a person because you're Muslim/Jewish/Christian/Catholic... that's not okay. That's a hate crime," one student told us.
Another student argued that the government should curtail the speech of Donald Trump, while a protest organizer told us that free speech is a rhetorical device used by the priveleged against the oppressed.