Last week, Donald Trump came to the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) for one of his town hall events he’s been having across the country. I did not have class the day he came to my university, but worked most of that day and consequently was there to witness much of what took place (at least from the outside of Gallogly Event Center) and followed all the developments online. There were several things that I observed that got me thinking about the way we view freedom in America, and how the Trump vs. Hillary debate has seemed to change - at least in theory - some of the ways in which we talk about freedom.
As can be imagined, the days leading up to the Trump Rally were full of overly zealous Twitter wars and lots of uproar on Facebook - both in Trump’s favor and opposing him. The thing that was most shocking to me, though, was the way my fellow students reacted to the mere mention of Trump coming anywhere near UCCS. Most of the people I encountered seemed to display an immense sense of outrage at the fact that someone like Trump, who admittedly does not possess many of the same values that UCCS tries to uphold, was allowed on campus. This is the part that really got me thinking.
The first announcement that Trump was coming to campus was made via an e-mail from chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak to all UCCS faculty, students, and staff and sparked almost immediate debate (see the 114 UCCS Professors who signed a letter saying that they did not support Trump coming to campus if you think I’m exaggerating). Students and staff alike were concerned that Trump’s stance towards those in minority groups might cause certain groups to feel marginalized on campus or, even worse, feel unsafe. While this is understandable (Trump has said some pretty inflammatory things in the past) it also is not a reason to ban Trump from campus.
Schockley-Zalabak said as much in a second e-mail response sent out to UCCS students and employees - explaining that as a publicly funded university, UCCS was obligated to allow Trump to lease the Gallogly Event Center if no academic event was taking place the same day - but that didn’t stop the hateful comments and feeling of disappointment that many students felt when it was confirmed that Trump was coming to UCCS.
The thing is, though, that Trump has freedom of speech, just like the rest of us. While some may not agree with his rhetoric, he is allowed to say whatever he wants, and UCCS is allowed to have him on campus and not endorse what he is saying. If freedom of speech is to be had by the left, then it must be had by the right as well. If UCCS is going to have democratic candidates for various political offices on campus - which it has in the past - then they must afford the same opportunity to republican candidates. This is the way the political world is supposed to work, though it often does not do so successfully.
One of the things that I always remember when it comes to this topic is from back when I was trying to decide on which college to attend during my senior year of high school. I was on a trip to Colorado Christian University (CCU), and the school was having a forum at which their lawyer was speaking. He was representing CCU, along with a big group of private Christian universities and other Christian entities, in a suit against the government for mandating that birth control be provided on campus as a part of the new health care plan that Obama was putting into place (keep in mind this was several years ago). CCU’s lawyer was Mormon, he was representing a variety of different universities with different beliefs, and he mentioned that he has represented in the past many different religious institutions. While I don’t remember much of what he said, I do remember his main point: religious freedom for some means religious freedom for all. To fight for CCU’s right to provide healthcare that did not go against their moral beliefs meant that this lawyer had to fight for the same rights for all religions - Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or otherwise.
While this may seem irrelevant right now - it happened years ago, after all - it directly relates to Donald Trump’s visit to UCCS. Freedom of any kind is a two-way street. In order to protect your own liberties, you must protect the liberties of others. A Christain cannot have freedom of religion without a Muslim having freedom of religion, and Hillary Clinton cannot have freedom of speech without Donald Trump having freedom of speech. UCCS cannot allow a democrat to come on campus and spew their ideology and then turn around and deny Donald Trump the right to spew out his own thoughts. That’s not how it works, and that’s not what our country was founded on.
So, while some UCCS students may feel ashamed of their university for allowing Donald Trump on campus, I am proud of the fact that UCCS did was what right. Not everyone will agree with Trump - and that’s okay - but he still has the right to say what he wants, and the right to come on campus. Freedom is something that this country was founded on, and I’m glad that it hasn’t disappeared - at least not entirely.
Thank you, chancellor Shockley-Zalabak, for doing the right thing and letting Donald Trump speak on campus, even if his ideals may not match up with those of some of the students of UCCS. Freedom is a two-way street, after all, and one that we all must ride on in order to protect what this nation was founded on.