Free speech has come under increasing assault on college and university campuses across the United States. The most recent illustration of this fact comes out of Michigan where students Brandon Withers and Michelle Gregoire, members of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) were trying to recruit members for their Kellogg Community College chapter.
Brandon and Michelle, along with three other YAL supporters were simply asking students if they “like freedom and liberty” and handed out pocket-sized copies of the U.S. Constitution. Doesn’t seem too problematic, right? Evidently the KCC administration thought differently.
According to Alliance Defending Freedom who is suing the school:
By doing this, KCC officials insisted that the group was violating two school policies. One policy requires students receive permission before engaging in any expressive activity anywhere on campus, while the other restricts this activity to one location on campus.
When campus security confronted the group, several participants (correctly) claimed they had a constitutional right to speak in that location. The officers then arrested three YAL supporters, including Gregoire.
Alliance Defending Freedom and Allied Attorney Jeshua Lauka intervened and the charges were dropped, but the lawsuit seeking to invalidate the school’s unconstitutional speech policies continues.
In video footage captured of the incident between the students and school officials, one of the KCC officials admitted he “might be a little extra protective” and hilariously claimed he was looking out for the best interest of “students who come from rural farm areas.” The official said many of the students come from communities “like, growing up on a farm or they’re growing where they don’t have wifi, they don’t have internet you know..” and “might not feel like they have the choice to ignore the question.”
In an article titled The Coddling of the American Mind, and written for the Atlantic almost two years ago, authors Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt predicted that these types of incidents on college campuses would continue to increase. “In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like.” Lukianoff and Haidt described why that is “disastrous for education—and mental health:”
If our universities are teaching students that their emotions can be used effectively as weapons—or at least as evidence in administrative proceedings—then they are teaching students to nurture a kind of hypersensitivity that will lead them into countless drawn-out conflicts in college and beyond. Schools may be training students in thinking styles that will damage their careers and friendships, along with their mental health.
In the case of Young Americans for Liberty vs. Kellogg Community College, it was a school official – not students – who were using hypersensitive emotions as weapons and imposing their view on the students.
College and university campuses are not places where the First Amendment does not apply.