Editorial: How free speech is distributed on our campus
The third week of October marks the annual Free Speech Week, a time during which we can reflect on the importance of freedom of speech and of the press within our society and our lives. Universities are a particular hotbed of activists, students, professors and other faculty sharing their opinions on divisive national issues.
Our college campus, aligning with many others, has a predominantly liberal population, and many student and faculty opinions reinforce a liberal narrative. Delaware is one of the most deeply blue states in the Union. At the same time, there are many conservative students who may feel deterred from expressing their honest views in light of the overwhelming rhetoric supporting a liberal agenda. This can most easily be seen in the classroom.
Many professors, particularly in the political science, history and other humanities-related courses, often have their own opinions on our country and government. For example, some of us are all too familiar with a professor making an off-handed comment about what they think of the president. Something along the lines of: “Trump’s the worst.” While these opinions are completely valid, they often aren’t presented as opinions, but rather a statement that does not need to be discussed.
When a professor makes a statement like the one above, some students may completely disagree, but may not feel as though they have the opportunity to express that. If professors are going to share their opinions in a classroom, they must provide the option for debate, when it is appropriate, so students who may disagree are able to speak their mind. Instead of making the comment and then moving on, professors must clarify which part of what they are saying is an opinion, and that other views are welcome.
Many of us, before coming to college, experience a reinforcement of our views within the bubble of our own towns. College should be a place where our hometown views are challenged, and we are able to experience viewpoints outside of those we already believe. Being challenged or hearing the other side allows students to question their own ideas which may lead to an expansion or better understanding of a topic.
An ideal solution that enables students to see and understand all sides of an issue would be a classroom model where students are assigned which side they must argue, which could result in a student arguing for a side they do not personally support. This would also allow for both sides of an issue being represented. However, this model would not apply to most classrooms, so the main focus should be the professors providing a place where students feel like their opinions are welcome when debate is due. Students would also benefit from professors sharing both sides of an issue, so even if someone is not comfortable speaking up, they are still seeing their viewpoint represented in a classroom setting.
The other half of this is the students. In light of Free Speech Week, the staff of The Review would like to remind everyone that their opinion matters and everyone should feel comfortable sharing their views, regardless of if that view is of the minority. Free speech is something that we as Americans are privileged with, and it would do everyone a disservice to not take full advantage of it.
In a liberal state, college and student population, it is easy to assume that everyone holds the same views. However, opening up the discussion and allowing people to speak against the norm is an important part of human interaction. After college, when we are all tasked with making it as adults in the real world, we will encounter many people who disagree with us. College should be a place where we are equipped with the skills to speak out about what we believe in, and be receptive to the views that differ from our own.
This editorial is written to reflect the majority opinion of The Review staff. This week’s editorial was written by Jessica Leibman, Copy Desk Chief. She may be reached at JLeibman@udel.edu.