[Sept. 2016 Opinions] Free speech should not be censored

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By Kit Epstein ’17 Breaking News Editor

When I was four years old, my parents taught me how to swim by tossing me into the pool in our backyard (with floaties on, of course), then watching me struggle to stay afloat. I had no other option than to flail my arms around in the water and kick my feet until I started to get the hang of it. It was a sink-or-swim situation. I chose to swim.

This is how I imagine college will be. You get thrown into a new environment, this time without floaties, and are forced to grow up.

So, when The University of Chicago sent their incoming freshmen class a letter stating that the college does not support “so-called trigger warnings” and does not condone the cancellation of “provocative speakers just because their topics might prove controversial” I was intrigued. After a year of politically correct B.S. flooding America’s university system, UChicago’s letter is, frankly, a breath of fresh air.

The letter states that “members of our community are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn, without fear of censorship.” You’d think that at an institution of higher education, these rights would be a given. They are not. Just last year, former Yale professors, Dr. Erika Christakis and Dr. Nicholas Christakis, were verbally assaulted and forced to resign after Erika Christakis sent out an email suggesting that students should not take high offense to obnoxious or potentially disrespectful Halloween costumes.

In a video posted to Youtube of a following confrontation, Nicholas Christakis was told that he should “not be able to sleep at night,” called a “horrible person” and repeatedly had profanity screamed in his face. Once again, this is an example of extreme punishment due to an unpopular opinion. Where will this end?

Most people don’t seem to understand the extreme hypocrisy that comes with political correctness, especially on college campuses. According to The Brown Daily Herald, transgender activist and native Hawaiian campus speaker, Janet Mock, was forced to cancel her discussion at Brown University last March due to an online petition accusing her of attempting to “improve Israel’s image” just because the event was partially sponsored by  Brown Hillel. Her discussion had nothing to do with Israel- but hey, it’s only fair for liberals to unjustly censor LGBTQ+ community representatives, right?

Last year, multiple colleges, such as the University of California Berkeley, Williams College and The University of Pennsylvania were forced to cancel invited campus speakers due to student protests, effectively cutting off open dialogue and intellectual conversation at the source. Why is it that the same schools who aim for open discourse and acceptance are the schools cancelling campus speakers because a group of students disagree with their opinion? Case in point: hypocrisy.

I refuse to allow my future college experience to be censored. I believe in open discourse, difficult topics and learning from my peers. So, I applaud you, The University of Chicago. Thank you for creating an environment in which people are able to speak freely without fear of unfair backlash. That’s what learning is all about.

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