In a time of campus protests, differing views, and polarized political rhetoric it might be a fine time to step back and look at the state of campus speech at IU.
There have been breakdowns in freedom of speech at other colleges across the country.
Schools as diverse as Georgetown, DePaul, and UC Berkeley have uninvited speakers, attempted to shut down student speech or have had violent protests against students or guest speakers on campus.
IU has managed to avoid those worst case scenarios. This success begins with IU’s Student Organization Code which maintains that “the University is committed to protecting free speech rights of students, faculty, and staff.”
The University lived up to this promise during the contentious 2016 election season. Republicans, Democrats, and other issue-focused student groups were permitted to organize, hold meetings, and publicly advertise or protest.
IU hosted, without restriction, political candidates from both parties and up and down the ticket.
These protections of political speech during the most viciously contested partisan elections in the modern political era were for the benefit of all students. IU students learned more, debated more and were better served by the broad diversity of opinion cycle.
Protecting speech, even speech we disagree with vehemently, is at the heart of healthy civic debate.
As students at Indiana’s largest liberal arts university, we are not here just to get a degree and job after graduation.
We are here to learn how to examine opposite points of view, to debate with those we disagree with logically and even to change our minds every once in a while when we discover our positions are wrong.
The ability to speak freely and clearly precedes all the goals of this type of education. It is by speaking that we interact with our classmates and professors and it is by speech we arrive at a point where as graduates we can go out in the world not just with a degree but also as confident in our ability as citizens.
Upholding these values of freedom of expression has never been easy and the end of the election cycle has not made it easier. We are still a divided country.
During this unprecedented partisanship that separates us, these days the university should remain as an open forum for all ideas, for all students, all the time.
The norms and values students learn at IU will carry on to the rest of their civic and professional lives.
In our community and campus debate then, let’s build a conversation we can all be proud of.