by Terry Schilling
This article is part of a series focusing on Lens of Liberty, a project of the Vernon K. Krieble Foundation.
In a recent Liberty Minute titled “That Offends Me,” Helen Krieble, founder and president of the Vernon K. Krieble Foundation, spoke about the problem with safe spaces on university campuses:
On many college campuses today, activists insist on safe zones where nobody hears ideas that might offend them. Administrators control speech and publish handbooks advising faculty and students what they can and cannot say.
They ought to look through the lens of liberty first and understand that freedom of speech is one of our first rights under the constitution. If everyone agreed on every issue and nobody ever said anything offensive, we wouldn’t need the first amendment. We need it to protect speech with which we may not agree and to protect our right to express our opinions whether they’re popular or not.
When you’re only exposed to one side of an issue, you’re being brainwashed, not educated. That is counter to the very purpose of our universities and should offend everyone.
As Krieble points out, safe spaces have no place in our education system. Universities ought to be places where students are constantly challenged to pursue truth through vigorous debate and intellectual inquiry. In the name of protecting some students from having to encounter opposing viewpoints, safe spaces silence others and thereby hinder the intellectual growth of the university as a whole.
In these safe spaces, only students who share the same ideologies as those who designated the space as “safe” are permitted to speak. Any other opinions which may offend those protected students is forbidden. This is a direct violation of the other students’ First Amendment freedom of speech.
Since the establishment of safe spaces at universities has picked up speed recently, more and more students are being silenced. Given that the majority of large college campuses are predominantly liberal, it is usually the students with conservative political views whose free speech is shut down.
Last weekend, during his commencement address at the University of Notre Dame, Vice President Mike Pence touched upon the same issue Krieble addresses. He told the audience that safe spaces, speech codes, tone policing, and political correctness all amount to “the suppression of free speech” which is “destructive of learning and the pursuit of knowledge.”
It is time for university administrators to realize that, in the name of being “safe,” they are not only suppressing free speech, but also suppressing the intellectual growth of their students. They are thwarting the very purpose for which their institutions exist. Let the hypersensitive students be insulted. After all, if their viewpoints are really the true ones, they ought to be able to withstand insult and win any argument thrown their way.