Why the frik frak do you wanna ban our Yik Yak?

In February 2016, a group of protesters petitioned the president of California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) to not let conservative editor of The Daily Wire, Ben Shapiro, speak on their campus. The president caved to their demands and canceled the event. However, Shapiro threatened to come to the university anyway. After all, the event had gone through all of the legal channels, had been approved by the school, and was the result of months of work by student organizers on campus. There was no legal or moral right to cancel it.

After being called out, and in order to save face, the President reversed his decision, causing pandemonium to ensue as protesters tore down event posters, forcibly blocked the doors to where the event was held, allegedly assaulted those who tried to enter, and pulled the fire alarm. Those wishing to enter had to be snuck in through the back, and Shapiro required a police squad to escort him off campus. As disturbing as this sounds, violations of free speech are becoming shockingly more common on campuses.

For example, in April 2014, students at the University of Hawaii­–Hilo were prevented from handing out copies of the Constitution on campus. Last Febuary, two students at Northwestern filed a Title IX report against a student for writing an article criticizing certain aspects of Title IX.

Last March, two radio show hosts were summarily expelled from Bucknell University for allegedly making a racist comment on air, with neither  the actual transcript being provided nor a hearing.

In April of last year, a student was suspended from USC after writing a racial slur on a white-board as one of the reasons why “USC WiFi blows” without formal investigation.

Last May a student sued Blinn College for forcing her to receive permission before expressing controversial political beliefs and because the college had set up a “free speech zone.”

Last November, University of Missouri protesters, including students and faculty, forcibly removed the press from filming their rallies.

Last December, Yale students demanded the resignation of a professor who sent an email suggesting that people not confront those wearing offensive Halloween costumes. That same month, a student at Colorado College was suspended for six months after making an offensive Yik Yak comment.

I am not saying that we should be making racist, controversial, or deliberately provocative statements. However, the freedom to make these statements is protected under the First Amendment, including the right of the press to print generally whatever they want. Public institutions like University of Missouri are required to uphold these values by law. The vast majority of private institutions, including Yale and Northwestern, also claim to support free speech, and thus should also abide by the same standards. However, evident by the list above, these supposed champions of freedom of speech sometimes completely miss the ball.

The assault on the right of free speech is most evident at Colby in the form of those advocating a ban on Yik Yak.

Colby is indeed an institution that claims to support free speech. Our student handbook states that “[a]s an institution built on respect, active inquiry, and the free and open exchange of ideas, Colby is committed to maintaining an environment in which teaching, learning, and research can flourish.”

Yik Yak provides the greatest forum of uncensored thought on campus. Thus, an attack on Yik Yak is an attack on free speech itself. Those seeking to ban Yik Yak for the purpose of social justice do not understand that Yik Yak is good for us as well as for social advancement. If people are silenced from speaking their mind, then our society has no way of addressing the issues that people on Yik Yak bring up.

The best way for people to put an end to racism is to challenge convictions through open discussion. In order to do this, though, individuals need to be able to state unpopular, and sometimes, very stupid, things. After all, freedom of speech is not there to protect our right to talk about the weather; it is there to allow us to discuss controversial issues and criticize those in positions of power. There can be no civil discourse if no one is allowed to speak up and disagree. Good ideas should not fear free speech. Reason and evidence always triumph over illogical thinking and lies, but only in an the open forum.

Freedom of speech is about respecting people’s fundamental rights to live and express themselves the way they want. You do not need to like Yik Yak and Yik Yak does not need to like you, and that’s the way it should be.


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