College students’ views of the First Amendment are of profound importance for multiple reasons. First, colleges and universities are places where intellectual debate should flourish. That can only occur if campuses are places where viewpoint diversity is celebrated, and where the First Amendment is honored in practice and not only in theory.
This is a hollow, empty argument. Viewpoint diversity is not of any value when one idea is right and all the rest are wrong. If we are discussing geography, do we really need to give space to flat Earth theory, even though it has been discredited for centuries? By the logic of your argument, since it will increase viewpoint diversity and you say that viewpoint diversity should be celebrated, we should.
The problem, of course, is that viewpoint diversity does not happen in a vacuum. It happens in a context. In the context of campuses and the lives of students, viewpoint diversity that extends to every moronic idea humankind has ever produced represents a colossal waste of time and resources. Unlimited viewpoint diversity would mean the abandonment of all standards for higher education. Everyone with a crackpot idea could waste campus resources espousing it.
What is really being demanded in these calls for free speech and viewpoint diversity is that conservative snowflakes with bad ideas want campuses to be safe spaces where they can waste everyone’s time and money, and they are going to cry about it until they get their way. All student bodies are saying, in response, is “Your ideas are bad. Quit wasting our time.” Students are entitled to do that. They are entitled to manage their own time and be in charge of their own environments. They aren’t going to live forever, and they don’t owe it to anyone with moronic, unscientific, roundly-discredited ideas to carve out time and space to make them feel good.
College students’ views on the First Amendment are important for another reason as well: Students act as de facto arbiters of free expression on campus. The Supreme Court justices are not standing by at the entrances to public university lecture halls ready to step in if First Amendment rights are curtailed. If a significant percentage of students believe that views they find offensive should be silenced, those views will in fact be silenced.
Implicit in this argument is a degree of authoritarianism likely abhorrent to a lot of students. You’re saying you’re OK with decisions about the First Amendment as long as they come from Supreme Court justices, but not from students. This view falls in contradiction to evidence that suggests students are often way ahead of the Supreme Court when it comes to the logic and morality of their beliefs. Pick issues like women’s suffrage, abortion rights, abolitionism, religious freedom, civil rights, and any other landmark American movements, and you will find that students were among the vanguard, while the Supreme Court lagged behind.
I plan to publish a detailed analysis of the results in an academic paper, but given the long time delays associated with academic publishing, and the timeliness of the topic, I believe it is important to get some of the key results out into the public sphere immediately.
The survey results establish with data what has been clear anecdotally to anyone who has been observing campus dynamics in recent years: Freedom of expression is deeply imperiled on U.S. campuses.
Let me translate that for your readers so they fully understand what you just said: “Here are my non peer-reviewed findings that just so happen to back up an invented media narrative. I’ll throw out some numbers for you to make it seem legit.”
Does the First Amendment require presentation of counterpoints?
Of course, it does not. But, as the responses to a question on this topic illustrate, many students nonetheless believe that, under the First Amendment, presentation of counterpoints to offensive views is legally required in on-campus events. Here is the question and the breakdown of responses:
The irony is that you’re arguing against yourself. If campus culture has a predominate idea on an issue, a controversial speaker represents a counterpoint to that idea. As you’ve just said, it is not incumbent on campuses to require a presentation of those counterpoints. Campuses do not have to open their doors to terrible ideas.
Your entire position is based on the premise that heterodoxy is inherently good, but that is easily seen to be a faulty premise when you consider that, in a discussion of the composition of the Moon, the guy who insists that it is composed of green cheese adds nothing of any intellectual merit to the discussion. He actually detracts from the discussion by wasting everyone’s time.