Does free speech have limits? In an era of hostile political rhetoric, social media abuse and constant questions about political correctness, it’s an issue that millennials appear to be reanalyzing.
The issue of free speech has become a hot button topic at many American colleges, as debates about “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” have called into question what can be said on campus—and what can’t.
Nowhere is this more apparent than at Yale University.
At the Ivy League school last year, this issue went viral when someone posted a video of a student literally screaming at the “master” of a residential college after he sent an email that some students found insensitive. In December, a student group started a petition to repeal the first amendment. And earlier this summer at Yale, 66 percent of attendees at a debate told a survey that “free speech is threatened on college campuses.”
According to recent findings from the Pew Research Center, millennials in general are far more likely to support limits of speech and expression than older generations—particularly if it involves preventing offensive comments about minority communities.
Their global survey found that 40 percent of millennials say that the “government should prevent people from saying” offensive things about minorities. That’s a far greater percentage than any group older than 35.
This issue grabbed mass attention when President Obama told students at Rutgers University this year they were wrong for disinviting former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to deliver a commencement address because of her political views.
“I don’t think that’s how democracy works best, when we’re not even willing to listen to each other,” he said.
Even Donald Trump found an unlikely ally in Harry Potter author JK Rowling, who spoke out against a petition to have him banned from the U.K. Speaking at the Pen America gala, she said, “If you seek the removal of freedoms from an opponent simply on the grounds that they have offended you, you have crossed a line to stand alongside tyrants who imprison, torture and kill on exactly the same justifications.”