One person hisses. Another yells profanities. Someone else spits in your direction and shoves their middle finger in your face. Your reputation and physical appearance are attacked on social media. You’re trending on Twitter – but for all the wrong reasons. They’re screaming at you. They hate you.
Why? You’re a conservative.
It’s a typical day on a college campus for you. Shocked?
Unfortunately, this is becoming the norm.
The trend has been increasing since the 2016 general election. Students who dare to wear a Trump t-shirt or a MAGA hat are denounced, harassed and, at times, threatened. College Republicans, Turning Point USA, and other right-of-center meetings across the country draw protestors and opposition from fellow students. Sometimes the pushback is so severe that they need law enforcement officers present. Other times, events are canceled altogether.
The right to free speech is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, but the right itself transcends any document. The right extends to all speech regardless of whether or not protestors agree with the sentiment of these conservative organizations. Mutual respect, even in disagreement, is a necessary part of a functioning society.
But why do we need to be reminded of this? Why have President Trump and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott both recently condemned the hateful and divisive actions of some students on American campuses? Campus activists have made it necessary. In fact, the President even signed an executive order to protect students whose political opinions have made them a target. Free speech, a right so fundamental to our Republic that the original states refused to ratify the Constitution without its inclusion, is under attack.
The free speech debate hit a little closer to home these past few weeks. My very own university’s student government filed legislation to remove the Texas State chapter of Turning Point USA citing the resolution as a “safety” measure to protect “minorities and marginalized populations from their [TPUSA’s] negative campus influence.” Thankfully Texas State University and the Student Government President issued statements condemning this legislation and its adverse effects on free speech. These statements, while helpful, did not protect conservative students from an onslaught of harassment from other students.
Issuing statements can only accomplish so much. It is time for campus leaders to hold true to our constitutional principles and stand with each other, regardless of agreement. Our principles have allowed for greater human flourishing than the world has ever known. If conservative positions are as terrible as their detractors claim, they’ll die out in the marketplace of ideas. (But I’m betting they won’t.)
It’s time for college campuses to recommit to these fundamental values.