BY GABRIEL GUZMAN
Free speech is so eight years ago—or at least that’s how it might feel for some. With the overwhelming criticism coming from our government, media, and fellow neighbors, it seems as though free speech is coming to a screeching halt. One of the things that distinguishes the United States of America from numerous countries is our democracy. We have the ability, better yet the freedom, to express ourselves however we see fit; but we’ve entered an era in which our society is beginning to roll back on that fundamental right. The debate regarding free speech is not new, but it’s has become a hot topic in this country, given the current political climate.
Ann Coulter v. UC Berkeley
Ann Coulter caused an up-roar in recent months when students found out that the conservative commentator planned to make a visit to the University of California, Berkeley. An overwhelming number of students were outraged over the idea of Coulter giving a speech on campus. After the university cancelled her planned visit, it quickly became an issue of free speech. Susan Svriuga and William Wan wrote in The Washington Post, “Berkeley College Republicans originally invited Coulter to speak on campus Thursday, but university officials canceled the event because of safety concerns.” The university quickly received backlash for the cancellation of the speech, so they decided to host the controversial commentator the following week, at an indoor location. Coulter demanded her right to the first amendment by tweeting a weather forecast with the caption: “Nice day for an outdoor speech at Berkeley.” Shade, or no shade? Pun intended.
Harvard pulls the ultimate ‘Sike!’ on incoming freshman
Harvard recently made headlines, but not for the usual good press. At least 10 incoming freshmen had their Harvard acceptance revoked due to an inappropriate, private Facebook group: “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens” according to The Washington Post. There was public outrage after the news became public, especially from the parents of the students. People are arguing that this is a free speech issue. According to Harvard college admissions policies, the school may withdraw an offer of admission if the prospective student “engages or has engaged in behavior that brings into question their honesty, maturity or moral character,” said Rachael Dane, a Harvard spokeswoman. Free speech has always been free, but sometimes it comes with consequences.
Student disqualified as class president after trump-like comments
A Florida teen ran for (class) president, and with a seemingly familiar rhetoric, won. Déjà vu? J.P. Krause won with his 90-second speech delivered in his A.P. U.S. History class, according to the New York Daily News. His speech may sound very familiar: “What I propose is that we build a wall between here and Sebastian River, and we make Sebastian River pay for it,” said the newly elected teen. But his glory was short-lived because he was disqualified. Some are calling this a free speech issue because the school attempted to censor his speech by disqualifying him as a candidate, which may be abridging his first amendment right. Has the current political climate changed the way we view things that even a campaign, as class president must be censored? Should we, as Americans, have thicker skin? Well, it depends who you ask.
Given the above accounts that have circulated and caused much attention in 2017, it’s safe to say that the current political climate has caused us to become more sensitive in regards to free speech. It’s reached a point where the new administration has banned certain press from attending press briefings. Does such behavior constrain the very essence of the first amendment—the right to freedom of speech, of expression? But how do we draw the line between accountability and censorship?