Last week, members of Duke Young Americans for Liberty went around campus with a “free speech ball.” The premise was simple: we asked members of the Duke community to write whatever they wanted on the ball, no matter how offensive or uplifting it was. We wanted to revitalize our campus’ fervor for freedom of speech and emphasize how valuable and fundamental such a freedom truly is.
Unfortunately, there is an epidemic on college campuses. Freedom of speech, perhaps the most fundamental right in a free society, is constantly undervalued in the name of social justice. The desire to protect students from microagressions and to create “safe spaces” on campuses. This has not only led legions of students to administrations’ doorsteps demanding a perverted sense of liberation, but has additionally, and more perniciously, poisoned the minds of too many young people.
A surprisingly large amount of millennials have been convinced that a proper cause of social action is one of censorship. Unfortunately, many of these activists have convinced themselves and others that tearing down our right to speak freely could ever have noble consequences. Such a line of thinking is not only silly but dangerous for our society.
Perhaps the most saddening aspect of this phenomenon is that many students across the nation have convinced themselves that they are, in reality, promoting justice in restricting free speech. They’ve convinced themselves of some puerile nonsense—perhaps either that free speech is a tool used by the privileged to oppress others or that free speech is intrinsically inimical—whose premises not only fail to realize the liberation free speech necessarily brings, but also whose consequences are far-reaching and malicious.
While we did encounter some students who were opposed to the notion of free speech during our event, they were greatly outnumbered by the scores of people who participated in our project and thanked us for it. Such a wonderful turnout not only made this event much more fun, but also was an encouraging reminder that ideals of free speech are far from dead on Duke’s campus.