Op/ed Fridays: “Free speech zones” undermine free speech

July 18, 2014 by Joshua
in Education, Freedom

Monday’s opinion piece, “Turning College Into a No-Thought Zone,”described how a semi-public college in California created what it called “free-speech zones” where students could speak freely, disallowing some forms of speech everywhere else.

The article contained this statement (sadly, to me, from someone else with a physics background):

“The creation of the free-speech zones, and the enforcement of sound-level ordinances, was not to prevent free speech, but give religious or political speech a time, place, and manner that would allow speakers to address their messages to audiences on campuses without disrupting the other fundamental functions of the institutions,” wrote a retired physics professor commenting on a Chronicle of Higher Education report.

That was the purpose of the Constitution, to make the entire country a free-speech zone.

The meaning of the Orwellian term “Free-speech zone” is not in defining where people can speak. It defines where people can’t speak.

Everyone knows the right to speak freely isn’t absolute. The Supreme Court and others refine its limits. School administrators who try to impose their interpretations on others seem to misunderstand the law—starting with the First Amendment, one of the big ones. As do the police departments who have created Orwellian, anti-Constitutional “Free-speech zones” outside political conventions, protest areas, and so on for decades.

The school is giving them a civics lesson, fortunately not the one the administrators who evidently opposed free speech intended. Instead it’s showing what happens when a school breaks the law.

“Isn’t an institution of higher education’s primary function … the education/learning and safety of its students?”

Whoever thinks the free speech the Constitution protects hinders education or impinges on safety is confused. The danger of free speech is nothing compared to the danger of its suppression.


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