Campus Free Speech Hearing: ‘The Most American of Values Are in the First Amendment’

A congressional hearing that took place on Wednesday featured eloquent arguments about the importance of fighting for expression rights on campus. Ken Paulson, the President of the First Amendment Center, aggressively defended free expression principles during a congressional hearing on the relationship between free speech and the American campus. Paulson argued that certain university officials are willing to bend First Amendment principles in order to protect the feelings of students. “As part of my First Amendment work, I’ve traveled to a dozen campuses a year for the past 20 years and I honestly don’t believe there is an epidemic of suppression or intolerance in the nation’s universities,” Paulson began. “I do see some high profile instances where college administrators and students are willing to bend free speech principles to prevent hurt feelings or ideological conflict. Somewhere over the past two decades, the land of the free has become the home of the easily offended.” Paulson contends that the rise in attempts to shut down guest speakers is a consequence of the lack of education on the topic of democracy. “You can’t shout down a speaker if you truly understand how diversity of opinions has bolstered our democracy. You can’t censor students or their media if you understand what Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and the first generation of Americans meant by freedom of the press,” Paulson continued. “You can’t try to zone protests off campus if you truly appreciate the value of petition and assembly. Too many of our students and sadly, their parents and grandparents, don’t truly understand these core American principles. A First Amendment survey found that only a third of Americans can name a single freedom in the First Amendment. Only two percent can name all five.” Click here to watch the entirety of Paulson’s remarks, along with the rest of the hearing..

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