Donald Trump

“Donald J. Trump’s win upset many college students across the nation.” (Courtesy of Ninian Reid via Flickr Creative Commons)

Donald J. Trump’s win upset many college students across the nation, leading to classes being called off, students walking out of their classes in protest and colleges creating more safe spaces. Fortunately, College of Charleston did not follow the trend of coddling students or intolerance towards differing views. Despite that the college would be rated by FIRE as “red light” based on their policy review, which means the school has at least one policy that is not in line with the First Amendment, the College maintained itself as a place of higher learning, where students freely exchange their ideas regardless of how controversial they may be.

No incidents of suppressed speech took place on campus until November 15th, when Glenn F. McConnell, the President of the College, emailed students and faculty members reminding them that in the aftermath of the elections, “it is our duty as Americans and members of the College of Charleston to treat each other with kindness and empathy. No matter the political divide, we must always be tolerant of each other’s views.” However, he added, “Hateful speech and actions will not be tolerated at the College.” The issue here is how vague the term “hateful speech” is, since it holds a subjective meaning. Further, much of what people consider “hateful speech” is generally protected.


The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is a non-profit group founded in 1999 that focuses on civil liberties in academia in the United States. (Courtesy of FIRE)

Public universities, which includes the College of Charleston, must abide by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects free speech that includes, “certain offensive words and phrases to convey political messages, according to Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971). For example, messages like “Trump 2016″ that were written in chalk on Emory University’s campus were viewed as “hateful speech” by some students, but regardless of how they feel about it, the chalk message is protected under the First Amendment. Universities should only intervene when speech is a form of harassment, or “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive, and that so undermines and detracts from the victims’ educational experience, that the victim-students are effectively denied equal access to an institution’s resources and opportunities.”

"The College has always maintained a culture that invites ideas from all spectrums." (Courtesy of Mogollon via Flickr Creative Commons)

“The College has always maintained a culture that invites ideas from all spectrums.” (Courtesy of Mogollon via Flickr Creative Commons)

Although I commend President McConnell for reminding students “to treat each other with kindness and empathy” and “always be tolerant of each other’s views,” he had it wrong when he said “hateful speech” should not be tolerated, especially when the term is too broad and can easily label an expression that is not “hateful” in nature. To advance free speech on campus, we must embrace all ideas and viewpoints, even those that are controversial. It is the diversity in thought that will mold students to become mature intellectuals that are well prepared for the real world after graduation.

Even at the height of the political unrest that stems from the elections, the College has always maintained a culture that invites ideas from all spectrums and allows students to engage in free expression through classroom discussions and civil discourse with fellow peers. Let us replace our notion of “hateful speech,” which is too subjective and broad, with a principled commitment to “freedom of expression.”

This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions. If you’re a student interested in presenting your perspective on this blog, visit our guest submissions page

The Internet helped bring to light all the nasty, disagreeable, twisted, and downright insane ways of thinking humans are capable of. Every nation’s legal system has its own toleration levels, of course, and the debate may never end on just how much should be allowed. The conversation changes when you bring in the matter of national security, though. Offending people is one thing. Helping to bring down your country is another.

The way we think about freedom of speech and expression in the age of globalization is indeed a matter of national security because terrorists, just like everyone else, have long been leveraging the Internet for their purposes. Regions all across the globe are grappling with the dilemma of adhering to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights while ensuring national security in the era of cyber terrorism and world wide interconnectedness.

The unpleasant side of free speech knows no international boundaries. Every place in the world offers a different take on where the line between mere unpleasant speech and hate mongering, security threats lies. Each corner of the globe has its problems with hateful speech, and each government places limits on freedom of expression to a different degree.

No matter how controversial or distasteful opinions may be, they’re allowed under the First Amendment in the United States. Right now we’re grappling with free speech on college campuses. How hateful can campus speech become before someone says, “enough!”? Our First Amendment culture is so strong that we often tolerate white fraternities who boast they’ll lynch a black person before allowing them entry into their clubs.download

You only have to look at American history to understand why. Every major social change in our country has started with a small group of people exercising their First Amendment rights. Therefore, we protect those rights fiercely. Many argue that in this regard, we go far beyond any other country on earth. However, even the land of the free imposes limitations on the freedom of speech.

Those limits may fall under the guise of protecting our children (anti-bullying laws, or campus hatred speech limits), but they are limits, nevertheless. Or look at the Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project , where a restriction on political speech was deemed constitutional since it was a threat to national security.

In Europe, such hate speech enjoys far less toleration under the law. You only have to go back 80 years to understand why. It was Nazi propaganda, a form of hate speech, that turned their region inside out and started World War II, after all. Hitler used mass communications to spread his hatred and incite much of an entire generation to fight for his cause. So in the eyes of Europeans, yes hatred can (and did) turn into a matter of national security.

In France and Israel, they’ve outlawed the word “Nazi.” Without historical context, this sounds extreme, but that brings to light the complex nature of freedom of expression and globalization. The dark musings of individuals may know no international boundaries because of the Internet, but each country has its own speech culture. History plays an important role in how tolerant a nation and its people are.

Take China, for another example. History plays a huge role, but the policies that stem from history clash deeply with what today’s Chinese citizens find when they travel. The government tries to temper the disconnect by putting it all in relative terms. In a country where there’s a history of limiting social freedoms in general (one child policy, etc), the citizens are told they can thank their lucky stars that at least it’s not North Korea.

That’s actually what they were told by the state-run China Central Television (CCTV):

“Things that we consider trivial and normal like going online, sending emails, and downloading software on an iPad are considered ‘privileges’ in North Korea. ”

~CCTV, via Sina Weibo

The problem is people travel outside of China. Yes, China has come a long way in regards to freedom of expression, but compared to many other countries, they have a long way to go.

In South Korea, Cold War era legislation is still used today to limit expression against the state. Their National Security Law has increasingly been used to prosecute and punish citizens who merely involve themselves in discussions of relations with North Korea. While done in the name of protecting the state, these rules amount to is severe restrictions on freedom of speech.

A 2012 briefing by Amnesty International cites several cases where South Korea’s National Security Law is now being used to harass individuals and organizations who are well within the law in exercising their rights to free speech. For example, the government targeted people who criticized their investigation of people held in connection with the sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean warship.

So we have a spectrum where national security butts heads with freedom of expression and valuing one can often involves tradeoffs for the other. In France and Israel, there are precisely legislated speech limits banning the word “Nazi.” In China and South Korea, there are more generalized restrictions that question the limits of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. So what’s the answer?

Freedom and security are values that will need to work together in a balanced partnership that benefits everyone. In the end, however, it’s security that provides the basis for freedom of speech, not the other way around.

This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions. If you’re a student interested in presenting your perspective on this blog, visit our guest submissions page


SpeakFreelyAdvocate_FBHeader (2)

Students For Liberty is pleased to announce the launch of the Speak Freely Advocate (SFA) Program.


The SFA program is a premier activist program designed for students looking to defend and promote free speech on their college campuses, and in their communities. SFL will be accepting 20 students from across North America to participate in this exclusive program. SFAs will take on Free Speech initiatives on campus from January through May of 2017 and will receive hands-on training and support from staff at SFL.

If free speech matters to you, and you are looking to make a difference, then we strongly encourage you to apply to the SFA program! Below are the qualifications, compensation, and obligations for students who are accepted into the SFA program:

Compensation: SFAs will be compensated with a $500 stipend upon completing the Speak Freely program.


To participate in the SFA program, you must… 

  • Be a current student with an exceptional record of pro-liberty activism
  • Have prior experience in a leadership role with a pro-liberty organization

Expectations and Benefits:

  • SFAs will have their travel and accommodation paid for by SFL to attend our International Students For Liberty Conference in Washington DC from February 17th-19th.
    • SFAs will be required to participate in SFL’s Free Speech training at ISFLC.
  • SFAs will have their travel and accommodation paid for by SFL to attend our exclusive spring Free Speech Summit (April 28th-30th, 2017).
    • Attendance is required for participation in the program.
  • SFAs will be required to complete SFL’s online free speech training course.
  • SFAs will be required to host a minimum of two free speech on campus events with a total attendance of 100 students.
    • SFAs will have up to $1000 to help promote and carry out those on campus events.
  • SFAs will be expected to get four media hits during their completion of the Speak Freely program. (Media hits include published articles or media coverage of events. SFAs will work directly with SFL’s Media Associate to generate media attention.)

The deadline to apply is December 20th, so get your application in soon!

Apply to be an Advocate today!

Free speech violations are the biggest threat to a college student’s happiness. Missouri University , along with many other campuses, created safe spaces for students where they could shield themselves from hurtful or offensive views. Words are so scary to college students that controversial speaker, Milo Yiannopoulos, had to cancel an event at Florida Atlantic University due to bomb threats. Simply put, this generation is using threats of violence to silence others.

While you have a Constitutional right to say what you want (until those words are obscene or insight violence in rational people), you do not have a right to violently stop speech that you merely disagree with. Your right to happiness does not override others’ right to life and liberty. Being perpetually offended does not make you enlightened. It makes you immature.

First Amendment

College students are waging a war against the First Amendment, but, while this is frightening, it may be of more concern that Washington is waging a war against the Second Amendment. If you care about the former, you must care about the latter.  The elimination of  Second Amendment rights will not protect citizens from gun violence, but it will act as a first step in restricting or eliminating First Amendment rights.

Most of the time, violent acts are committed by people with bad intentions. This means that taking away firearms will leave the law abiding, non-violent citizens defenseless, while criminals will be left with guns that they obtained illegally. The rest of society will be sitting ducks to the violence that they will have no way to defend themselves against. Criminals, by definition, do not follow laws. This bit of common sense dismantles the common argument for violating the Second Amendment.

This is why the elimination of the Second Amendment is an attack on the First: without a way to defend your rights, they are temporary and arbitrary. Notice how our Presidential candidates are not calling for more tolerant speech, more safe spaces, or even politically correct language, which are all big issues to young voters. Calling for an assault on the freedom of speech garners much less support than appealing to the emotional responses to gun violence. This is why one candidate is calling for steps that greatly restrict the right to keep and bear arms. By doing this, the government would be taking steps to eliminate the Second Amendment in the context that it was drafted. This would open the door to take away any other rights, including those listed under the First Amendment. The people will not have the ability to defend themselves, their families, or their rights.

Second Amendment

Judge Napolitano sums up the moral perfectly: “the Second Amendment was not meant for shooting a deer, it was meant for shooting a tyrant!” In this respect, our Second Amendment right is fundamentally about defending against the infringement of our other liberties. Without this capability, the government is free to operate to its advantage, not the peoples’. Today, that may very well mean taking away freedom of speech so that it will have more power over the populace. Unfortunately, this is exactly what some college students are calling for (in addition to removing their Second Amendment rights).

None of us know what the future may hold, but I do know that I am terrified of the prospect that my children and grandchildren might live in a nation without freedom. I do not want to see people silenced into a void for their views. I do not want to see people die at the hands of criminals who will run rampant in a gun-controlled society. I do not want to see the elimination of free speech after eliminating the only way to defend our rights against would-be tyrants.

I do not want to see the death of Liberty.

This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions. If you’re a student interested in presenting your perspective on this blog, visit our guest submissions page

Online media company Gawker recently went out of business after losing an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit to wrester Hulk Hogan, financed by Peter Thiel. Reason Magazine’s Jacob Sullum has argued this ruling hurts press freedom and decried the decision. I politely disagree. Gawker’s shutdown was actually a massive victory for privacy rights, especially when seen through the lens of the non-aggression principle.


Firstly, we need to clarify that “freedom of the press,” as Constitutionally written, protects the press from retaliation by the government for reporting government wrongdoings. Gawker was not the subject of a state-run criminal investigation for its publications; it was the subject of a civil lawsuit. The government was not retaliating against Gawker for portraying them in a bad light to the public. (more…)