An op-ed published in the University of Maryland’s student newspaper argues that institutions should be able to censor speech that makes students “feel unsafe.”
“When is something outside the parameters of acceptability? Where does free speech end and offensive rhetoric begin?” student Moshe Klein began. “When is political correctness appropriate, and when is it used to avoid what makes us uncomfortable? These are pressing questions that college campuses around the country are struggling to answer.”
Klein goes on to argue that a controversial figure like Linda Sarsour should be able to speak on campus unless students take issue with her association with Rasmea Odeh, who was convicted in Israel of killing two Hebrew University students in 1969.
Sarsour’s case is where the line between feeling unsafe and uncomfortable becomes blurred. On the one hand, Sarsour should be allowed to speak even if she says things that make people feel uncomfortable. As a student who has openly condemned the BDS movement, I believe her view should not invalidate her ability to speak. While I do not agree with it, support for BDS falls within the realm of acceptable discourse because it does not explicitly target a group. On the other hand, because of her connections to Odeh, she could genuinely make people feel unsafe. At that point, the discussion isn’t about Sarsour’s personal opinions but whether people will feel genuinely unsafe because of her connections.
Comments on the article question how Klein’s proposal for censorship would play out. Breitbart reported on this phenomenon is a previous article as “the tyranny of the anointed,” which described it as “the concept that there exist individuals wise enough to appoint themselves the arbiters of tolerant and intolerant speech.” Who at the University of Maryland is wise enough to determine which forms of speech are truly pose a risk to student safety?
“Moshe Klein’s opinion makes me feel unsafe,” one commenter wrote. “So he should be the first one who is censored, banished from campus and jailed…see how that works?”
“Feelings make for a poor standard,” another added. “Under that system, whoever is the most brazenly irrational can silence everyone else on campus. Just claim that you feel threatened by any opposing viewpoint whatsoever. In fact, that’s pretty much exactly what people try to do on every campus in the free world today.”
Tom Ciccotta is a libertarian who writes about economics and higher education for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @tciccotta or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org