Colleges and Universities in the modern world are not only a place for higher education and development to occur – they are also a place in which young students develop and secure the qualities they need to be successful and happy in adult life, such as political, social and spiritual beliefs and aspirations. University is not simply a place to stick your head in a book for the entire time, it is place where many more experiences will be made, and life skills developed. This is why the University experience is so compelling and rich – it is usually the first time in a young person's life where they are independent, and need to take at least partial responsibility for their finances, and total responsibly for their work and for their university life in general. For the vast majority of students, it is a time of excitement, fulfillment and discovery.
The liberal concept of college education is a premise which is gaining popularity and recognition worldwide, thanks to the freedom that the ideals of these academic institutions provide, such as the ability for students to express themselves in a given environment. Students are free to develop their opinions and their understanding in an environment which supports and nurtures their passion for certain subjects and issues. One of the most fundamental philosophies of a university is the right to free speech, which is why students are allowed, and are actively encouraged, to develop their own opinions on practically anything. When students are settled, they will often begin to speak freely about issues without guidance or prompts from academic members.
The philosophy is prevalent because institutions believe that this is an important part of the learning process. From subject investigation, to the discovery of new concepts, free thinking is the foundation of progress, and the ability to speak freely without fear of reprisal allows for development that a textbook cannot provide. It is valuable to learn and understand that it is acceptable to speak freely. Even the tenure system is based on the protection of professor's right to free speech and freedom to research as they see fit.
The great thing about free speech is that it allows for students to develop their expression and characteristics that they will find very useful later on in life. Students are encouraged to form their own opinions at university, with no restrictions from previous peers, family or previous schools, allowing true originality to develop. The convention of adhering to other people's views is wiped away, which allows students to not only become free thinking, but to listen and engage to other free thoughts and opinions. This is important because it allows students to understand that not everyone's opinions will agree with their own, which will give them experience in debate, and help them to understand others. Free speech is intrinsic to social development, and helps with strong leadership, public speaking, and other things which require confidence like politics, and any demanding and successful future career.
Students learn quickly upon arrival to university that the world does not revolve around them. Many students before university are wrapped up in cotton wool, with them being the number one priority in their family. This is not always healthy, and while they may have had their own responsibilities, they were anything but independent. So, this type of student has no idea how the real world works until they arrive at university. This broadens their mind beyond their previous selfish horizons, allowing them through free speech to realize that there are many important issues going on in the world. This gives them the chance to help solve important world problems, and really contribute to society in general.
While free speech is prevalent, it is generally limited in general course study, which emphasizes more on the practical skills required to do well in their subject. Free speech is most commonly done through extracurricular activities and by organizational efforts. Religious and political groups, alongside clubs and internships are very popular options on today's campuses, as they provide great outlets for like-minded students to help self conscious students to speak out and develop their skills. Open public debates within these settings and great for debates and for speaking and listening. However, there have been instances in the past where free speech under these methods have caused legal and administrative problems, and usually problems like this arise when people with certain agendas want to promote censorship of free speech. For instance, the proposal of student fees is controversial because critics of free speech state that political and religious groups should not be funded by tuition fees. This is unfortunate because this is a direct attack on free speech for negative motives, the consequences of which being just as negative.
There have been a number of famous cases of free speech censorship. One such case was the Southworth and Board of Regents at the University of Wisconsin. Threes students made a case with the US Supreme Court that it was against the constitution for tuition fees to fund certain groups whose views they disagreed with. The university saw this as an obstruction of free speech, and maintained that the student body on the whole benefited from the large and diverse number of available groups, and that it was perfectly fair for student fees to pay in part for all of these groups. Luckily the Supreme Court sided with the University of Wisconsin, due to the fact that a university should be an open market of free speech and ideas. Also to the defendant's strength was the unique freedoms that Universities are afforded.
Last to be mentioned is the term "political correctness", which can mean many different things, but is definitely seen as a form of censorship in relevance to universities. The concept of free speech revolves around no censorship, but many times the government has introduced policies which create more censorship. On the whole however, universities are not a place for censorship, and will always actively oppose this concept to the full. This is because they want every student at university to have the most positive experience they can, which means freedom. In freedom lies belonging, with likeminded students who can freely maintain their opinions coming together to form groups and lifelong friendships. Education and discovery needs to be nurtured as much as possible, and censorship minimized, because ignorance is the true opposition to university, since ignorance is the root of fear and lack of ethical principle.
Center for Campus Free Speech. LINK. Accessed on 22 June 2005.