Don't Silence Conservative Speakers on College Campuses

Why Are Liberals Afraid Of Ben Shapiro?

We should not silence conservative speakers on college campuses, sacrificing freedom of speech in the process.


When I was a freshman in high school, I managed to piss off almost everyone who followed me on Instagram with one single post. I'd heard the old saying that there are two things you should never talk about publicly: politics and religion. But to me, this just didn't make sense; politics and religion were my two favorite things to talk about.

To be fair, the post was pretty offensive. The intention was to criticize the theory of Heaven and Hell but instead ended up publicly slamming Christianity and Islam, the two largest religions in the world. The way I phrased my argument was provocative and mean; it was not a shining example of civility. It ended with me publicly apologizing and deleting the original post.

In hindsight, I realize that my inflammatory language obscured the main point I was trying to make. However, I still think my point was valid. It bothered me that once people saw what I wrote and said "I'm offended!" they refused to even listen to the rational side of my argument.

The thing is, I think there can be incredible value in offensive speech. I don't think there is any idea that is so sacred that people shouldn't be allowed to challenge it.

Therefore, it bothers me to see so many instances of young liberals trying to prevent conservative speakers like Ben Shapiro from coming to college campuses.

Colleges are supposed to be a place where the free exchange of ideas can occur, where students are exposed to controversial thought that challenges their assumptions and are forced to reevaluate their own opinions. However, when liberals refuse to even allow a prominent conservative to express their ideas, the ideal of intellectual freedom is inherently undermined. As students, we are shutting down a conversation before it can even occur.

More disturbingly, we are refusing to listen to someone just because they have a different viewpoint than us. I think liberals often fall into the trap of assuming that our ideas are the absolute truth and anyone who dares to challenge our views is committing heresy. this is a very human response, but it is the wrong one. Arrogance is not a virtue. And when we refuse to engage with conservatives, we are retreating into our liberal bubbles and stymieing our own intellectual growth.

We are being closed-minded and this is antithetical to our liberal values. We as liberals are supposed to be open-minded. We are supposed to champion diversity, and diversity includes a diversity of thought. I hear liberals say, "I won't tolerate intolerance." But this is absurd. Tolerance means tolerance. If you only tolerate speech that you agree with, you are not being tolerant. Throughout history, progressives have been willing to challenge prevailing orthodoxies. We should not stop others from doing the same. We should not sacrifice freedom of speech at the altar for the sake of preserving our sacred cows.

Some liberals say that hate speech should not be allowed on college campuses. But the Supreme Court has consistently ruled that hate speech is free speech. In the classic On Liberty, John Stuart Mill describes how hateful speech can be useful to society because if people can see how awful these ideas are (whether they be racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, etc.), then these ideas can be rejected. The public intellectual Jonathan Rauch has argued that hate speech has actually helped minority groups gain rights. In the context of gay rights, the speech of homophobic figures has shown the American public that homophobia is irrational and they have been increasingly willing to reject this nonsense. So the answer to hate speech is not censorship; it is more speech.

Recently, Ben Shapiro came to the George Washington University campus, which naturally generated some controversy. I disagree with many of the things Ben Shapiro says and I find his views about trans people to be incredibly offensive and dead wrong- but I will still defend his right to express his views. And the notion that minority groups need to be protected from Ben Shapiro's speech is ridiculous and frankly patronizing. LGBTQ+ people and people of color have survived centuries and decades of violent oppression; we can survive a talk by Ben Shapiro. I'm proud that at GW, liberals tried to engage Shapiro in intellectual debate rather than trying to shut his talk down. My roommate notably got into an argument with Shapiro about socialism, an exchange that went on for about 12 minutes where two sides of an economic argument were presented and defended- the free exchange of ideas at its finest.

We liberals have to ask ourselves— what are we really afraid of? Do we truly believe that allowing someone like Steve Bannon to speak on college campuses will convert people to his white supremacist ideology? And if we as liberals cannot respond to Steve Bannon's prejudice with our own rational arguments, or if we cannot have a rigorous debate with someone like Ben Shapiro, if we cannot engage in discourse and win the battle for ideas, then we have failed. Because in a free society, we must be willing to allow controversial, offensive, even hateful speech- and be confident that through our speech, our own ideas can prevail. This, after all, is the essence of liberty.

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To The Nursing Major During The Hardest Week Of The Year

I know that no grade can possibly prove what kind of nurse you will be. I know that no assignment will showcase your compassion. I know that no amount of bad days will ever take away the empathy inside of you that makes you an exceptional nurse.


To the Nursing Major During Finals Week,

I know you're tired, I know you're stressed, and I know you feel like you can't go on. I know that no part of this seems fair, and I know you are by far the biggest critic of yourself. I know that you've thought about giving up. I know that you feel alone. I know that you wonder why in the world you chose one of the hardest college majors, especially on the days it leaves you feeling empty and broken.

But, I also know that you love nursing school. I know your eyes light up when you're with patients, and I know your heart races when you think of graduation. I know that you love the people that you're in school with, like truly, we're-all-in-this-together, family type of love. I know that you look at the older nurses with admiration, just hoping and praying that you will remain that calm and composed one day. I know that every time someone asks what your college major is that you beam with pride as you tell them it's nursing, and I know that your heart skips a beat knowing that you are making a difference.

I know that no grade can possibly prove what kind of nurse you will be. I know that no assignment will showcase your compassion. I know that a failed class doesn't mean you aren't meant to do this. I know that a 'C' on a test that you studied so. dang. hard. for does not mean that you are not intelligent. I know that no amount of bad days will ever take away the empathy inside of you that makes you an exceptional nurse.

I know that nursing school isn't fair. I know you wish it was easier. I know that some days you can't remember why it's worth it. I know you want to go out and have fun. I know that staying up until 1:00 A.M. doing paperwork, only to have to be up and at clinicals before the sun rises is not fair. I know that studying this much only to be failing the class is hard. I know you wish your friends and family understood. I know that this is difficult.

Nursing school isn't glamorous, with the white lab coat and stethoscope. Nursing school is crying, randomly and a lot. Nursing school is exhaustion. Nursing school is drinking so much coffee that you lose track. Nursing school is being so stressed that you can't eat. Nursing school is four cumulative finals jam-packed into one week that is enough to make you go insane.

But, nursing school is worth it. I know that when these assignments are turned in and finals are over, that you will find the motivation to keep going. I know that one good day of making a difference in a patient's life is worth a hundred bad days of nursing school.

Keep hanging in there, nursing majors. It'll all be worth it— this I know, for sure.

So, if you have a nursing major in your life, hug them and tell them that you're proud of them. Nursing school is tough, nursing school is scary, and nursing school is overwhelming; but a simple 'thank-you' from someone we love is all we need to keep going.


A third-year nursing student who knows

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The Gap Between Knowledge And Action

Let's talk about action. There seems to be a mass phenomenon of disconnect between knowledge and action. Why is it that increased knowledge is not motivating people towards increased action.


In the world today, there are all sorts of social and political movements. Though society has always been flawed with endless problems, people are more aware of these problems today than ever. The rise of the internet, smartphones, and social media has created a new social climate of awareness as a result of greater interconnectedness. But how is it that the public is growing more aware, yet nothing seems to be changing?

I began really thinking about this perplexity recently, as I listened to a TedTalk discussing global warming. According to public polling from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, 70% of Americans agree that global warming is occurring. But according to the same polling, only 40% of Americans think climate change will affect them personally and are adjusting their lifestyles because of it. This is the gap between knowledge and action. Two-thirds of Americans acknowledge climate change, but only less than half are doing something about it. Something is being lost in translation, but what is it?

This phenomenon extends far beyond climate change though. Poverty. Hunger. Displacement. Lack of access to clean water. Sexual inequality. Like I said earlier, there are an endless array of problems the world faces, and we are more aware of them than ever, but how do we link knowledge and action?

We know that most issues that have risen due to globalization, affect the people who contribute to the problem the least, the most. Global warming is disproportionately affecting those in poverty who can't afford to recover from wildfires in California, stronger hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, or increasingly severe droughts in Syria. People in Flint, Michigan or Karachi, Pakistan lack clean water because of the actions of people far richer than themselves. Is a lack of personal victimization the reason? Is raised awareness and stagnant action a symptom of a bigger issue of lacking compassion or are people just lazy?

As a nineteen-year-old college student, maybe I'm naïve, but I refuse to believe that the U.S. and global, society as a whole is lacking in action because they are lacking in compassion or because third world problems "are not their problems." Philosopher, Christopher Heath Wellman, put it best when saying to "[n]otice how awkward it is to protest that those of us who are privileged cannot be obligated to change the system because we are impotent in the face of its enormity, while simultaneously suggesting that those who are starving to death are entitled to no assistance because they are responsible for the political and economic institutions which led to their ruin" in regards to world hunger.

You may be thinking, "OK but how can I make a difference, as just one person?" What Wellman meant in his quote was that you alone cannot make a difference for people starving in another country, but neither can they. It's only when we come together as a society and commit to action can we overcome these issues. Perhaps this is my Global Studies major speaking, but we are all citizens of the world, not just citizens of the U.S. and we must allow our compassion accordingly. No one has any choice in where, what circumstances, or what society they are born into so to refuse action which would help victims of circumstance would be an ignorant form of elitism.

This problem isn't exclusively on the national and global scale either; everyday people see problems in their personal lives and yet, only a small minority take action. Take, for example, people who stress about procrastination, but never change their time management habits. People who make the same New Year's Resolution every year because they never follow suit. Smokers who want to quit but don't try. Students who complain about poor grades but don't make time to study. Even in our own personal lives, knowledge rarely seems to prompt action.

I don't have an easy fix for this. And I don't hold the solutions to global warming, poverty, hunger, lack of access to clean water, or sexual inequality. But I do know that it doesn't need to be this way. It's often said that recognizing you have an issue is half the battle, the next half is action. Every day, our knowledge of the world and everything which inhabits it is increasing, the time for action is now. If we all, individually, take it upon ourselves to care for one another and work towards a better world, in small ways, I believe that together, we can make anything a reality.

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