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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

College kids want free speech to be nice

Less than half of college students know that “hate speech” is protected by the First Amendment and some of those wish it weren’t, reports a free-speech survey by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Overall, only 35 percent of students think hate speech should be protected.

“Very liberal” students and Democrats are more likely to say there are times a controversial speaker should be disinvited. However, very few students say they’d try to prevent a speaker from speaking by making noise during the event (2 percent), or using violent action to disrupt the event (1 percent).

The American Civil Liberties Union’s Claire Gastañaga was shouted down at the College of William and Mary.

“Very liberal” students are more likely to feel comfortable expressing their opinions in the classroom than their “very conservative” classmates, the survey found.  Almost one-third of students have self-censored in class because they thought their words might cause offense.

FIRE’s poll showed more tolerance for opposing viewpoints than a recent Brookings Institution survey, writes Julia Martinez in the Chronicle of Higher Education. In that survey, nearly 20 percent of students said it would be OK for groups to engage in violence to silence a “hateful” speaker.

Earlier this month, Black Lives Matter protesters at the College of William & Mary shouted down a speech on free speech by Claire Gastañaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Virginia.

A BLM member accused the ACLU’s of “hiding” behind free speech to defend white supremacists and said “liberalism is white supremacy.”

At the University of Montana, Maria Cole, who funds a journalism scholarship, invited a conservative professor to give the 10th annual Jeff Cole lecture. Apparently, Mike Adams will have to speak off campus. “I think we can find a speaker who will talk about free speech issues, without running the risk of offending students,” UM Dean of Journalism Larry Abramson said in an email to Cole.

Adams, who writes for, won a First Amendment case against the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where he teaches criminology, for retaliating against him for his conservative views.

University of California at Santa Cruz activists tried to shut down a meeting of College Republicans, calling it “violent racist activity,” reports Campus Reform. “We need a movement of people on this campus that rejects the ‘right of assembly,’ or ‘right of free speech’ for white supremacists and fascists,” wrote Haik Adamian on Facebook. After nearly two hours, police arrested three protesters.

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