On March 21, 2019, President Trump signed an executive order aiming to protect free speech on college campuses. This order requires public institutions of higher education to certify that they are enforcing the standards of free speech in order to receive grants through the Department of Education and other government agencies.
According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), “private universities are not directly bound by the First Amendment,” unlike public universities. FIRE also stated this: “However, the vast majority of private universities have traditionally viewed themselves—and sold themselves—as bastions of free thought and expression.” Therefore, private universities should then be held to the same standards of state universities in maintaining an environment that encourages expression of thought.
An article from Vox finds the opposite on speech: “First Amendment rights were developed and defined in order to protect the political life of the nation. But life within universities is not a mirror of that life.” College life cannot be a mirror when professors and other members of academia impose certain ideas. College is meant to be a time of growth— a time to find yourself— and how can one truly find themselves when ideas are restricted? Universities are pinnacles in the development and discussion of ideas; restricting speech is contrary to that idea. Presenting various opinions on topics allows students to grow and understand their beliefs more completely while also understanding the opposition.
It is our duty as students to support the expression of ideas and diversity in thought, so we can grow as individuals. The liberal arts education that DePauw champions was founded on the principle of free speech, and we must foster that environment. I think DePauw should bring in speakers of various political backgrounds to give students the opportunity to hear new ideas. I also think DePauw should continue to evaluate their codes on speech and expression, in order to end the restriction of opinions. DePauw should actively promote the importance of diversity in thought, allowing all opinions to have equal say in matters. I encourage students to advocate and express their beliefs no matter how popular or unpopular they may seem. We cannot truly grow if we do not learn and try new things.