Max Keating, a University of California, Berkeley student, writes a provocative but enlightening essay for the Washington Examiner where he shared how his original belief that free speech is a valued principle and practice in his campus of choice is being destroyed nowadays by the violence and intolerance of other students, more specificaly the liberals.
Keating wrote how UC Berekeley appealed to him because of the school’s message that everyone’s voice counts- that the campus, being a home to the free speech movement, values intellectual discourse and divergent opinions. He shared how the campus first captured his interest and admiration during the college admissions process because a particular moment in the school’s history resonated with him: the image of Mario Savio, leader of the Free Speech Movement bravely speaking up for First Amendment rights on campuses.
Keating thought then that the struggle and success of the movement is everything a college should adhere to. Keating thought then that historically students both on the right and left sacrificed for each other’s right to be heard, so that there would be more dynamic and enlightening discourse on campus, disagreements notwithstanding.
Unfortunately, that’s far from what Keating saw for himself when he was already studying in his once dream school. His previous beliefs have been shattered with what he was witnessing on campus. Keating said that unfortunately for him, it was not free speech he saw on campus, but violence and intolerance.
Keating shared that he attended a campus lecture by conservative Ben Shapiro. After the event, he ended up among a crowd of protesters that entered the campus. He happened to be standing near a woman then who held a pro-Shapiro poster, and he was shocked to see another woman from the protesters side, approached the Shapiro supporter. Without warning, the protester tore the poster from the supporter’s hands, and violently hurled the woman to the ground. The woman’s head hit the pavement. Riot police have to be called and an ambulance soon arrived.
Keating said that unfortunately, shocking as the Shapiro incident was, it was not an isolated case. He saw many other students shut down for merely expressing their opinions. He has spoken with fellow students who even support banning controversial speakers from campus. He also saw Berkeley College Republicans being spat on while merely attempting to recruit new members.
The student said campus officials continue to assert that free speech is valued, protected and practiced on campus. Although, there is also a recent survey by the New York Times that says some Berkeley faculty members believe violence is “acceptable” to shut down free speech when it is “used against what is perceived as fascist intruders.”
However, what Keating finds most disturbing are the actions of the students. He believes students must take responsibility as it is still their actions that will define their future. Keating said the best course of action for students is to stop being so sensitive; and that if someone’s ideas offend them, what they should do is to call them out and engage in debate. The one thing they should never do, Keating thinks, is to prohibit others from being heard.