Opinion: The left’s attacks on conservative speech on campus hurts students

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Young America's Foundation Conservative Organization logo
The Young Americans for Freedom group at UMKC came under fire after inviting conservative Michael Knowles to speak on campus. (YAF)

Our nation’s leftwing politics are plagued with a new trend of censorship and cancel culture against views they deem “hate speech,” leaving a stain on our country’s founding principle of free speech. Because of this shift, we’ve seen more attacks on conservatives around the country for simply expressing their beliefs. Where do these attacks on our freedom of speech end? As long as these attacks and attempts of censorship on conseravative students keep occurring, there will always be students hurt by it, physically or academically. This plague of censorship must end. 

It’s been almost a year and half since the attack on Michael J. Knowles by Alexis Dabu, a UMKC student who felt they were doing “the right thing.” As harmless as the glitter-laced lotion was, it made a statement that as long as your speech isn’t what we agree with, we’ll always shout you down and attack you for it. That night was close to me. It was my group — the Young Americans for Freedom — that hosted Knowles. We expected him to speak on issues that were surely controversial and would be met with resistance, but we didn’t expect physical assault. That night, I was in the back, behind the camera in the tech room, watching as the privileged college students shouted over Knowles, who was invited by UMKC students and wanted nothing more than to express his views. They claimed his speech was violent and decided the best course of action was to throw a tantrum to cover Knowles’ words. As they were leaving through the back door, the masked attacker came through with the squirt gun. After the matter, who was blamed? Not the attacker, but the Young Americans for Freedom, blamed for hosting such an “egregious” speaker, with students calling for our removal. We saw then that the university’s diversity commitment was only for those they felt were right. 

Just last week, a Utah high schooler was spit on and slapped by his fellow classmates for wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. At another incident in Washington D.C., a college girl was beaten in the street for holding a Trump flag by people claiming they were advancing the freedoms of women. Even if we turned a blind eye to these acts of physical violence, there are still hundreds of instances of censorship and self-censorship of conservative speech in schools due to a fear of retribution. Here at UMKC, I’ve been called racist and xenophobic for supporting our president. Conservative students on college campuses now “self-censor” three times more than liberal students to shield themselves from academic retribution. On an even bigger scale, we see conservative tabling getting shouted down and speakers for organizations getting disinvited. For example, California State University disinvited Ben Shapiro, a Jewish, conservative talk show host, from speaking at an event. 

Where does it end? It ends when the left finally comes out for total free speech, not just the speech they deem fit to their narrative. 

We must end this trend of public universities, college professors and students shouting down, restricting and abridging the speech they don’t agree with. These actions of division are widely associated with authoritarians, and should not be used against our own countrymen. Our country cannot sustain this amount of division for much longer. We’re only as strong as we can be when we’re in the fight for all freedom of speech. United we stand, divided we fall.

ajpfvt@mail.umkc.edu

3 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t really understand what you’re talking about. It’s the left that’s going to be extinguished. Just like 9 hours ago, the president signed an order mandating a “patriotic” curriculum be taught in schools to the exclusion of everything else. People’s cultural differences and beliefs are being eroded to fit one pattern, that of a white, Christian, conservative demographic. Rational thought and individuality are in jeopardy. And any dissension from that is met with spite and rejection from the president’s supporters due to his own overtly unsympathetic intolerance of diversity.
    So I personally don’t feel it’s a very accurate assessment that left-leaning interactions are destructive, particularly at this time. If anything, I think now students’ mental health will suffer from a lack of understanding and compassion if they do not fit the new conservative right mold.

    • Students are not being taught our great American history, but instead are being taught to hate and disrespect America. The president is to be congratulated on standing against the poisoning of student’s minds, mostly without their parent’s knowledge, with rancid ideas such as critical race theory.

  2. Freedom of speech is not intended to protect speech that everyone agrees with, it protects speech that might be controversial so conversation can continue. The only antidote for bad speech is better speech. Physical violence is never the answer. The writer of this story is saying left-leaning “attacks,” not interactions, are an issue, such a physical violence and shutting down right-leaning people’s ability to speak freely. A large percentage of America is conservative; their ideas are not wrong, just different (obviously not including radical, violent people of any idealogical group). There is room for everyone in this country. Be kind, be open, and don’t be married to your ideas.

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