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The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Free speech should not come at the expense of safety

College campuses tend to encompass an overwhelming amount of different opinions and ideas when it comes to controversial topics. The First Amendment guarantees freedoms concerning religion, press, expression, assembly and the right to petition, which select college students tend to use as a scapegoat to express their racist ideologies. Although not necessarily a bad thing, it can pose a magnitude of threats to college life.
Texas State is not the only university plagued with white supremacy, racist ideology and fascism. Two years ago, a large banner hung above Alkek Library with the painted words of “America is a White Nation,” shortly after the 2016 presidential election. A Boston College campus faced a similar ordeal in 2018 when a student vandalized a dorm with racist graffiti, which was later linked to a student who expressed support for the Ku Klux Klan and Hitler’s “perfect” race.
It is often left unsaid how these white supremacy and alt-right groups on campus provide an unsafe environment for college students that do not share such views. Lives are often taken as a result of hate groups who believe in things that have resulted in past genocide and racial segregation, which should have diminished dramatically in the late 1900s.
College campuses are playing tug-of-war with students who argue they have the right to express harmful ideals and hate speech. If there is any backlash from college campus officials, students cry First Amendment violation.
However, the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment does not protect behavior that is targeting, harassing, inciting violence or creating a hostile environment for vulnerable students.
Campus life has entered a new realm of protest and de-platforming other social groups. The issue is not students being prohibited from expressing their opinions; the issue is when equality and free speech are directly opposed in a seditious manner. In times when students have drawn attention to high-strung situations relating to a “violation” of the First Amendment, universities have tended to provide a general statement to soften the blow.
Although the perseverance of college administrators is more than admirable, the issue cannot be contained in a box with a few words placed in a mass email. Safety on campus should be just as important as ensuring students’ right to free speech.
However, when this right infringes on the safety of others, it is constitutionally prohibited if encouraging unlawful behavior. The Supreme Court case Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) held the government may forbid “incitement speech,” which is likely to produce lawless action.
The right to free speech is vital to civic education. Without it, society would be unable to have public discourse among students. A person has the right to their opinion at any given time unless it stimulates an act of violence.
The polarization of the U.S. has led to severe acts of violence on college campuses. A recent example can be seen when an altercation arose on campus after a student knocked off another’s “Make America Great Again” hat. This resulted in a hostile situation leading to the arrest of four people.
The U.S. Constitution is a living, breathing document up for interpretation in any situation. There is no such thing as valuing another person’s First Amendment rights over other’s unalienable rights.
Protecting a student’s right to feel safe on campus needs to be weighed heavily when the legitimacy of right-winged idealists are discussed.

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