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Censorship still a hotly debated campus topic

“UD remains deeply committed to ensuring that our campus is safe and welcoming to all people, and that all students and groups are protected from harassment and behavior intended to threaten or intimidate them,” said a university statement addressing the issue. “We invite students concerned about bullying behavior to contact the Office of the Dean of Students.”

“On a campus that is free and open, no idea can be banned or forbidden. No viewpoint or message may be deemed so hateful or disturbing that it may not be expressed,” says the American Association of University Professors’ statement on freedom of expression and campus speech codes. That statement, in full, can be found here.

Censorship’s relevance

FIRE President Greg Lukianoff notes that campus censorship is not only a relevant problem, but that it is more severe than most people recognize.

In his recent book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, Lukianoff expresses grave concerns associated with campus censorship. “At a certain point, the public thought that [speech codes] had gone away,” Lukianoff said.

But Lukianoff, who is also a lawyer predominately focused on First Amendment issues, said he believes that young Americans frequently face free speech obstacles, though they generally lack the uproar that possessed former generations.

“Previous generations would have rejected [speech codes] and rejected them loudly,” he said.

This begs the question: are today’s college students becoming lackadaisical about their civil rights?

“We live in a tame and regulated society and it’s not like K-12 is teaching students a lot about what free speech means. Student journalists get in trouble for writing about teen pregnancy or the legalization of marijuana or anything viewed as ‘racy’ that journalism students view as important,” he said. “Universities take advantage of students not having learned a good deal about civics.”

The role of polarization

Lukianoff cites America’s current staunch polarization as a contributing factor to unwarranted censorship. Indeed, the severity of one’s beliefs intensifies if one mostly associates with others who share them, he said.

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