Dr. Luana Maroja is a teacher at Williams College in Massachusetts, and she wants her school to protect free speech. Public schools get money from taxes, so they are treated like part of the government by the Constitution. Since the First Amendment promises that the government has to allow free speech, a lot of people believe that public schools shouldn’t make rules about what people can say.
Dr. Maroja’s college is private though, not public. She got a lot of other teachers to agree with her and sign a petition, but Williams College decided not to follow her plan.
What happened? Many students and teachers think free speech is dangerous. Some students went into a staff meeting in November 2018 to protest. These students and teachers who don’t want free speech in school think that we should have rules for what we can and can’t say. They believe that without rules, some people would use free speech as an excuse to say and do hateful things to others.
So why argue about this? The problem is that different people have different ideas about what counts as hate speech. A lot of people believe that saying bad things about people because of their skin color or gender or age is hate speech. Most people agree that it’s wrong to say those kinds of things even if the First Amendment protects them.
But some people think that any opinion or view they don’t agree with is hate speech. They think that just believing in a different religion or having different political views means you hate them.
Most people who want free speech to be protected don’t want anyone to say hateful things about others. They’re worried that if there are rules about what can be said, some people will use those rules to stop certain people from sharing their beliefs with others. They worry that if students are protected from views, opinions, and beliefs they aren’t used to, they won’t learn how to make their own decisions or how to get along with different people.