Opinion Free speech suppression on campus is creating a generation of weak leaders
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When I was in undergrad, my peers and I were ambitious risk-takers, always looking for opportunities to make our mark. This youthful and wide-eyed approach toward our education and our campus experience allowed us to learn about our capabilities and test our limits. We were able to reflect on the risks that we took and either figure out what we did wrong and recalibrate or recognize what we did right and log it as a win. Campus was a place where students were simultaneously emboldened by their ideas and humbled by those who challenged them.
Today, instead of the college campus being a place where you begin to understand how much you know and how much you don’t know, it is a place where you just “don’t.” You don’t offer your opinion unless it agrees with the professor and a majority of students in your class. You don’t tweet a joke that could be misunderstood and get you “canceled.” You don’t challenge the status quo; you just “don’t.”
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And if you do, the consequences could be catastrophic. You could, , , , or be to the extent that it could permanently damage your reputation. Let’s not forget about the possibility of being which is a trending university initiative that encourages students to tattle on each other for “offensive” speech.
Abusive relationships are not limited to couples and families. The level of fear students experience on campus forces them into risk-averse behavior similar to that of victims of abuse: afraid to make a move, partially in denial, always walking on eggshells, just keeping their heads down in the hope to avoid upsetting the campus despots. What kind of college experience is this? What kind of leaders will this system produce?
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When President Joe Biden delivers his first address to Congress on Wednesday, two of the past year's ground-shaking events will be hard to ignore. © Evan Vucci/AP President Joe Biden speaks about COVID-19, on the North Lawn of the White House, Tuesday, April 27, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) The room where he'll deliver it is exactly where a riot of would-be insurrectionists tried to prevent him from becoming president. And for the first time in history, a pair of women will be seated on the rostrum -- and both will be wearing face masks.
A nation of courageous leaders is how this country came into being. It took courage to seek a new way of life that valued concepts, those no government had embodied ever before. The signers of the Declaration of Independence weren’t just willing to risk their reputations or their livelihoods, they were willing to risk their lives. And they were courageous enough to follow through and fight a war that gave birth to a new nation. Throughout America’s history, we have seen this type of courage replicated by our citizens and leaders. It is the type of courage we teach about and attempt to emulate throughout our own lives.
So what kind of courage do we see today? Courage is often thought of as standing up for one’s convictions in the face of opposition; it involves sacrifice and defending others at your own expense. Most importantly, courage involves the willingness to take risks. It is vital to the success of our nation to have leaders who embody these traits. Whether they be political leaders, thought leaders, educators, business owners, CEOs, tech innovators, industry managers, military service members, etc., it is in our best interests to develop a generation of courageous leaders. And most leaders begin identifying the convictions they are willing to defend while they are in college; here they began laying the groundwork for what type of person and leader they will become.
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A joint sessions speech, known for its glad-handing cadence, was bound to be subdued with only 200 folks permitted at an event that can hold 1,500.President Joe Biden's address to a joint session of Congress was unlike any in modern history due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With no more than 200 folks permitted for an event that can hold up to 1,500, an event known for its glad-handing cadence and rousing moments was destined to be subdued.
But do today’s colleges and universities actually allow for this type of growth? Being able to speak one's mind and express ideas that challenge the status quo play significant roles in developing a courageous and competent generation of leaders. What happens when their rights to free speech are shut down or chilled? What type of leaders will this leave us with? How will they come out viewing and shaping the world if they have been suppressed for the last four years and have not developed confidence in their convictions — or avoided developing any convictions at all?
This is why it is so important for universities to understand the true consequences of chilling free speech. Not only are they creating a generation of leaders who are risk-averse, they are also developing paths for future leaders who have despotic tendencies. Students who have benefited on campus from shutting down and chilling free speech have clearer pathways to success on campuses over those who remain quiet and suppressed. We are setting ourselves up for a society that will be made up of leaders who are either weak and eerily compliant or tyrannical by design. Both lack courage, and either one could lead to our nation’s destruction.
Conservatives claim to hate "cancel culture" — but it's the heart of the right-wing agenda
Real "cancel culture": The right's decades-long campaign to stifle progressive ideas, protest and democracy itself Canceled Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images
Cherise Trump is the executive director of Speech First.
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UMass Amherst Parents Say School Suspended Students Over Maskless Off-Campus Photo .
"She and two others attended a gathering off-campus and were immediately removed from housing and suspended," a father said.UMass Amherst school administrators enacted a zero-tolerance, "high risk" COVID-19 pandemic stance in February that led to three female freshmen being cut off from online classes and having their $16,000 in tuition voided for the entire semester. The suspended students' parents on Friday blasted the school's decision, which was made after someone handed administrators a photo that showed the freshman friends posing outside without masks at an off-campus event.