Following a series of unpleasant events surrounding the issue of free speech at the University of Missouri, including the resignation of university president Tim Wolfe and mandated “diversity, inclusion and equity training” for university employees, Missouri Student Association vice president Brenda Smith-Lezama appeared on MSNBC Tuesday afternoon to complain about journalists who use the First Amendment to create a “hostile” and “unsafe” learning environment.
“One professor complained that universities are becoming places of censure and prohibition,” MSNBC host Thomas Roberts said, regarding a Yale professor who was criticized for emphasizing the importance of free speech. “What’s your feeling, do you believe that that’s where we are heading for American campuses now?”
"I personally am tired of hearing that first amendment rights protect students when they are creating a hostile and unsafe learning environment for myself and for other students here," Smith-Lezama said to Roberts. "I think that it's important for us to create that distinction and create a space where we can all learn from one another and start to create a place of healing rather than a place where we are experiencing a lot of hate like we have in the past."
Today, Smith-Lezama created that ‘space’, which she calls “stressfree zone”, for students who are having difficulty coping with other students who still believe the First Amendment exists in the United States Constitution.
Smith-Lezama also said that she believes that having a newly appointed “diversity, inclusion, and equity officer”, mandatory “diversity, inclusion, and equity” trainings, and emergency support for “students, faculty, and staff who have experienced discrimination,” are helpful ways to restore stability and healing at her campus.
But the amount of intolerance emitted by far-left students such as Smith-Lezama herself, resulting in university mandated restrictions on free speech and the invalidated firing of a university president, has caused many students with opposing views to feel afraid to express themselves. The reluctance to respond from generally vocal groups such as the Mizzou College Republicans has led outsiders to note this on their Facebook page, asking them to speak up on behalf of their student group members.
“When are so called republicans going to fight against the fascism that's going on at Mizzou?” one person asked. “You have a communications professor threaten bodily harm to a journalist student and she still has a job today? You republicans at mizzou need to start your own fasting....conduct your own protests....I'm sure local conservative groups would be willing to support you.”
“You guys should be leading freedom of speech rallies up and down campus and inviting the entire media there,” was another response.
The situation became so intense that students who were members of the Young Americans for Liberty resorted to building a 'free speech wall' just to keep the conversation moving forward on their side. One interesting note written on the wall was, "Freedom of speech does not mean speech without consequence."
Ian Paris, president of the Mizzou Young Americans for Liberty , said that he and several other students are afraid to disagree with other students who believe he must be “dealt with” for voicing his opinions and call him “racist.”
“I believe in liberty for all people, but the current climate on campus runs counter to that,” Paris wrote in an op-ed. “Some friends tell me they are afraid to voice their opinions lest they come under fire from the administration or peers – or the police.”
Paris said that the University of Missouri police department had sent out an email urging students to report “offensive” or “hurtful” speech so that the Office of Student Conduct can take disciplinary action against the speakers.
“Some friends tell me they are afraid to voice their opinions lest they come under fire from the administration or peers – or the police.”
Ian Paris, president of the Mizzou Young Americans for Liberty
Smith-Lezama is no stranger to "disciplinary action" herself. After being arrested earlier this year for what she called an “unresolved speeding ticket”, Smith-Lezama responded simply by tweeting that the experience of being arrested part of “becoming an adult.”
But apparently being able to handle the free speech of others is not part of becoming an adult, according to Smith-Lezama.
Zach Young, the student president of the Buckley Program at Yale, wrote about protests that had erupted last week in response to an event his group was hosting called “The Future of Free Speech,” requiring security for the opposition it had provoked.
What does it say when holding an event on free speech requires the presence of several Yale police officers? Fortunately, the Buckley Program is in a financial position to incur these costs, yet not every student organization is.
I worry that other students seeking to stand up for free speech may find their events dictated by the whims of protesters.
As a survey conducted by the group and emailed to The Daily Wire this morning suggests, free speech is still considered very important to a majority of American undergraduate students today. Unfortunately for the majority of Americans, a very loud minority on college campuses such as Smith-Lezama and her friends have hijacked free speech rights from other students and replaced the First Amendment on campus with a giant fist.