Free Speech: How Are Extremists Utilizing College Campuses?

Free Speech: How Are Extremists Utilizing College Campuses?

Jerrid P. Freeman (Northeastern State University, USA) and Shana Warkentine Meyer (Missouri Western State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7274-9.ch004

Abstract

What some may not realize is that extremists are utilizing the college campus as a venue to push their rhetoric and beliefs. These viewpoints are, by nature, polarizing and may bring tension and vitriolic reaction from those in the community and the college campus. Many college missions focus on critical thinking, opportunity, and safety, seeking to create an environment in which all voices can be heard and dialogue across the spectrum is encouraged. Left and right extremist groups bring ideologies that leave little room for discrepant perspectives, limiting opportunity for the learning and personal development that is desired on a college campus. Institutions of higher education seek and desire conversations with varying perspectives and viewpoints being shared on their campuses. When those conversations are coupled with radical behavior and unjust treatment of others, the safe, open, and objective environment college campuses seek to create and maintain is ultimately diminished.
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History Of Activism In The U.S. And On College Campuses

As long as there have been college students in the United States, there has been some form of campus activism. Issues first raised in the 17th century have been protested time and time again, and the successful strategies for making protests known have occurred frequently to bring light to various topics. In the 17th and 18th century Colonial Colleges, students protested in loco parentis (the concept of campus administrators acting in place of the student’s parents), the college’s curriculum, and substandard food and lodging. Revolts, student riots, and even violence towards others occurred in the 1800s on campuses like Brown University, Harvard University, the College of William and Mary, and Princeton University due to dissatisfaction regarding disciplinary injustices (Broadhurst, 2014).

Campus activism shifted in the early 20th Century to issues mostly outside of campus. In the early 1900s, students focused on problems such as the plight of the working class, socialism, and social reform; peace and disarmament; and curricular reform. By mid-century, the nation was united in a focus on patriotism, winning World War II, and anti-communism, which halted campus activism. However, the battle for desegregation and Civil Rights surged during the 1950s through litigation (Broadhurst, 2014). This increased litigation made appropriate policies and procedures in handling situations a significant focus.

The 1960s saw the rise of the free speech movement on college campuses (Krueger, 2018). The free speech movement began at the University of California, Berkeley in 1964, and helped popularize the concept of students’ voices in campus governance. In loco parentis was again challenged across the nation through student platforms and the student rights movement (Lake, 1999).

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