Emma Schambach writes for the Martin Center about UNC-Charlotte’s meager response to a disturbing incident on campus.
Universities may not target unpopular speech on campus often, but when they fail to protect it, the results are similar to officially silencing speech. A recent example of this lack of effort to protect comes from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where an anti-socialism display was destroyed on campus within a day after the Young Americans for Freedom campus group erected it. …
… Our club initially believed that the school removed our display, but we now believe that disgruntled students did so. The school did not effectively protect the display, but is now attempting to do better. Our club is concerned, though, that the students who trampled on our right to free speech will go unpunished.
The goal is not to ruin a student’s life who trashed a political display they opposed. Rather, the goal is to ensure all students’ political views receive the same protections on UNC Charlotte’s campus. University leaders have an important responsibility to teach students how to debate ideas respectfully. Educating students about the American idea of free speech prepares them for a world where violating someone’s Constitutional rights has grave consequences. By responding that they cannot do much to help us, our administration is telling students that the correct response to speech that offends them is vandalism.
This failure to identify or reprimand the vandal sets a dangerous precedent: It may indicate that the university, though not officially stifling free speech, will allow students to compromise the free speech of others.