Does the First Amendment end at colleges?

by Cougar News Contributor 769 views0

By Myles De Felicis

Angry protesters are blocking people from attending a public event. There are threats of violence, and students are being snuck in secretly to hear a speaker who has been invited to talk about mainstream political issues.

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 9.13.03 AMNot exactly what one imagines would take place on an American college campus, for levels and conservatives alike once celebrate free-speech. And yet, this occurred a few months ago at California State University, Los Angeles just has similar scenarios are becoming more frequent on campuses nationwide. The common denominator is leftist indoctrination in the classrooms.

On Feb. 25, syndicated columnist and author, Ben Shapiro, was invited to speak at CSULA for an event titled “When Diversity Becomes a Problem”. The event was open for anyone to attend, but protesters decided to block entrances and exits to prevent anyone from hearing him speak.

This behavior prevents people from listening to diverse viewpoints, and only allows one side to be heard. Many conservatives say that administrators train students to silence anyone that they disagree with politically. Both liberals and conservatives who wanted to hear Shapiro speak could not attend the event, and some protesters even assaulted students that tried to get through the crowd to the building’s entrance.

This violent behavior is nothing new to America. In 1957, white southern students protested and blocked nine black students from attending a public high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. The black students are famously known as the Little Rock 9. This behavior influenced southerners since the development of the Black Codes first passed in 1865, largely supported by politicians in the Democratic Party.

The entire point of my speech about diversity is that skin color is irrelevant,” Shapiro said. “Diversity of ideas matter.” 

Robert Crystl, one of the protesters, believed Shapiro was a racist because of the title of the event. He justified the behavior of the protesters to be positive to protect students from the speaker who he disagreed with. 

While many protesters showed up to shut down the event, there were also students that supported Shapiro’s message. Devon Mirsky, a conservative student said, “It’s important to show diversity of thought on college campuses, and right now free speech is being stopped.”

To make matters worse, the president of CSULA, William Covino, banned Shapiro to speak at the school the day before the event occurred. However, Shapiro said he had the legal right to speak on the campus and was going to speak there regardless. 

Some people at CSULA said Shapiro’s viewpoints had to be shut down because 90 percent of the college has people of color. “Viewpoints being shut down because of the color of skin is called racism,” Shapiro said. “They’re choosing skin color as a proxy for diversity of ideas in order to shut down diversity of ideas.”

Students at many universities are being taught by the left everything except basic American values, and are shocked when they don’t hold free speech in high regard,” said Shapiro.

The political action on College of the Canyons compared to CSULA is non existent, except for the sights of Bernie Sanders supporter tents located in the Honor Grove as the primary election continues weekly.

COC’s political science professor, Dr. Majid Mosleh, says he’s worked on campus for 10 years and he hasn’t experienced an outside speaker being prevented to give a speech.

The campus policy is very clear that it is an open access college, and my colleagues have invited outside speakers in the past to give a speech on different topics,” said Mosleh.  “I can assure you that the college administration has been supportive of faculty inviting speakers to our campus.”

However, when Mosleh was department of chair at COC, he did receive a complaint from a student who took another political science course and claimed his or her professor, who had liberal tendencies, shut down and gave them a lower grade on a research paper because of disagreements with the student’s ideological orientation.

That begs the question if the professor was fair in the assessment of the student’s project,” Mosleh said. “We have to search for patterns if this is taking place locally. No one has the right to suppress opposing viewpoints.”

Mosleh says he’s known some of his students to be of socialist or communist orientation, and they got a good grade on their academic performances. “I respectfully disagree with them ideologically, but I won’t lower a student’s grade because I disagree with their philosophy,” said Mosleh.

Any violent situation must be prevented. Under the First Amendment, individual citizens have a constitutional right to promote free speech,” Mosleh said. “If students believe they’re denied access to free speech, they have to exercise their constitutional right by pursuing their claim through legal channels.”

We must tolerate diversity of opinion in the USA since that has made this country a powerful democracy,” said Mosleh. “The founding fathers of America recognized that there would be diverse interests in this country.

We need to understand that the USA and its constitution were built on American values that emphasize freedom of expression. America has built a reputation as a strong democracy where its immigrant population respected diverse viewpoints.”

Mosleh said the Administrator’s ultimate goals should be to first protect the students and the institution. He says that it’s not up to an administration to define what freedom of speech is.

It’s expected that law enforcement would control the crowd of protesters to allow the public to hear Shapiro speak. But he said that the “police were told by the administration to allow protesters to do whatever they wanted so as long as there was no physical violence, which failed,” said Shapiro. “This created safety risks and first amendment issues, since the administration is telling people to let the protestors violate other people’s rights.”

Mosleh said if administrators intentionally encourage law enforcement officials to play a dissuasive role to block access to events where freedom of speech was going to be exercised, that could be ground for possible administrative action.

David Stevenson, a communication studies professor from COC, said that it’s unconstitutional to shut down speakers because their views are antithetical to a person’s ideological perspective, but people have a right to protest ethically.

Political correctness on campus is something I speak in all of my classes when I address the first amendment of the constitution,” said Stevenson. “Your right to free speech is protected, especially by the court in a classroom. But these days were having to be careful to not offend people.”

Stevenson said that it’s unfortunate that the United States is headed down a slippery slope that can cause serious repercussions. He said there is an increase of speech codes on campuses that suppress free speech, but it’s also in government, corporate, institutions and academia.

COC is a great place in where all views can be expressed, and I haven’t seen suppression on campus by faculty members, the administration or students. Campus life is the breeding ground for free speech, and a place for tolerance of views,” said Stevenson. “But we’re headed to the point where campus is becoming an intolerant place for people to speak their minds.”

The liberal ideology permeating academia is creating a situation where opposing viewpoint can’t be heard. We have a series of speakers on campus, and the speakers that I have seen all had a liberal, left-leaning bias.

My suggestion for the future is that independent and conservatives views are also invited to speak on campus.”

Beyond the campus, conservative speakers are not being invited to speak at public addresses, or if they’re invited, leftists in the crowd who don’t want to hear the speaker message drown them out.

The millennial generation are too hypersensitive and protected from helicopter parents,” said Stevenson. “No one should feel afraid on campus, but I’m afraid we are not going to discuss anything frank with one another.”

For example, do you call a short person short, or are they vertically challenged? Do you call a fat person fat, or do call them horizontally challenged? If I say someone is short in my class and they are offended by that, they may go to an administrator and tell them they do not feel safe in my classroom anymore.”

Stevenson creates ethical guidelines in his classroom such as to be respectful, no name-calling and to listening to another person before his students critically assess an opponent’s viewpoint. “If everyone understands the rules, the students could have frank discussions with one another and still be friends.”

From the beginning of the semester, Stevenson tells his students that they can express their views within constitutional limits based on the correct structure, such as using a topical structure in public speaking.

If professors would say to their students what is the structure to discuss topics, it would help eliminate any ideological biases they may have when it comes to content,” said Stevenson. “I’m happy to express my own views on a topic, but I’m not going to allow my own bias to get in the way.”

He explains that many of his students are unaware that political correctness is a problem, which includes current events, politics, or government. He says many are observed in their phones and don’t knowing who owns the information that they consume, and where it’s coming from.

Stevenson warns that if people don’t start having civil discussions, the country could create ideological enclaves that will separate themselves from the whole. In other words, Civil War.

My hope is to avoid getting into warring factions over ideology. I love this country and I want to see it remain a strong place of liberty,” said Stevenson. “It’s easier said than done, but once we’ve stopped talking who knows where we go from there.”

Stevenson says he hopes that his students who transfer from COC make logical discussions with others that are based on credibility and evidence.


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