Since its inception, the university’s relationship with free speech has been unstable. Thomas Jefferson founded the university on “the unlimited freedom of the human mind” and encourages students to explore thought without restraints. Regardless, the university administration found ways to undermine the students’ speech, which they found unacceptable. In the 1960s, for example, Dean BFD Runk strong censored progressive views supporting “racial equality, university reform and an end to the war in Vietnam” by banning the publication of articles expressing such sentiments in The Cavalier Daily. In the 2000s, the administration was implemented by former university president John Casteen language codes designed to punish people for expressing “inappropriate” thoughts. With the abandonment of such practices and the institutionalization of free speech advocate like University President Jim Ryan, the university remains in existence today true to its purpose – the maintenance of the traditional devotion to free thought. However, dissenting voices threaten to sever this connection.
College campuses are across America eager Participation in “cancel culture’ – the phenomenon that urges members of society to ostracize the individual in order to ostracize their ideas. And this despite the fact that the university is currently one of the most successful celebrated As a free speech advocate, I would argue that the student body is beginning to accept “cancelling” people as a means of reducing uncomfortable and offensive speech. The FIRE 2021 report on Political Campus Climate showed that 68 percent of university students said it was permissible to stop someone from speaking out because of their beliefs. The fears arising from the dropout culture can also be seen in this report, in which hundreds of university students share their fear of voicing countercultural perspectives. This growing culture of abandonment is disastrous because it disrupts the natural flow of abandonment The marketplace of ideas.
The free exchange of ideas is vital to the university because, according to Jefferson specified, that is the purpose of the university – “to follow the truth wherever it may lead, and not tolerating error so long as reason is left free to combat it.” Obviously the university was designed to serve the people enable to discover through critical thinking which ideas are good or bad and thus to follow or reject. However, students at the university cannot realize this if they cannot besiege all ideas without fear of ostracism. Essentially, dialogues enable people Test the validity of ideas. By building claims with reason and evidence, and by presenting counter-arguments and examples in a meaningful and respectful way, people can destroy bad ideas and make good ones happen. Without the freedom to express dissent, the quest for virtue fails.
Of course, freedom of expression is not without flaws. Above all, it allows hate speech. While hate speech is despicable, I believe that marginalizing those who speak hate speech can lead to more hate speech.
The real problem with abandonment culture lies in its unintended consequences — specifically, it normalizes unintentionally cancelable thoughts like hate speech. From my point of view, this happens in the following way. First, the abandonment culture cultivates stubbornness in the hearts of abandoned individuals. Few who get canceled think about the value of their ideas—most just assume their thoughts are good just because they’re wrongly silenced. People who think they’ve been wronged rarely think they’re wrong. The frequent lack of cordiality in arguing further contributes to this sense of slander. Second, it opens up fringe ideas to sympathetic viewers. When people think others are being unfairly attacked, they do so naturally Page with the victims. Given that the cancel culture binds the individual to the idea, many well-intentioned but uninformed people may fall prey to fringe ideas while defending the canceled individual, especially when such ideas embody common beliefs that those bystanders want to believe.
Despite the failure of the culture of abandonment, other forms of cultural intervention can still be beneficial. By condemning bad ideologies with reason, humility, and heartiness, the university community can be instrumental in promoting better ideas. This is partly due to societal pressures to conform. In the student body, for example, pressures against hate speech are strong, thus forcing most biased students to believe in their disgust. However, as the culture of abortion shows, social sanctions alone cannot change the opinion of others. People understand what ideas to eradicate through productive dialogue. These occur when participants are reasonable enough to explain their beliefs logically, humble enough to acknowledge valid criticism of their reasoning, and heartfelt enough to assuage hostility when ideological conflicts arise. Reason, humility, and warmth—the pillars of dialogue—must complement fellowship-wide condemnation.
In order to create this harmony and to keep the natural progression of the market to discover good and bad ideas, the culture of the university has to change. Students should seek to understand each other’s beliefs, remain open to criticism, and most importantly, earnestly strive for the absolute truth while maintaining an open mind and compassionate heart. Acknowledging the need for reason, humility and cordiality in dialogue is essential to the thriving of this university.
Rob Clawes is a viewpoint writer for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at Opinion@cavalierdaily.com.
The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns reflect authors’ views only.