Colleges prioritize free speech, inclusion on campus

Students yell during a march to coincide with the anniversary of Columbine High School shooting on April 20 in Houston. According to a survey by the American Council on Education, college presidents gave their insight on freedom of speech at colleges. Associated Press

By Adam Gibson | Assistant News Editor

The American Council on Education recently surveyed several hundred college presidents to get their insight on free speech and inclusion on campuses across the country.

By attending a private Baptist university, Baylor students are specifically exposed to Christian values through Chapel and required religion classes Christian Heritage and Christian Scriptures.

Mineral Wells junior Bailey VanNatta said she supports freedom of speech and while Baylor is a Christian university, she feels everyone still has the opportunity to express their beliefs.

“I do think that Baylor is open to people that aren’t Christian and I’ve never seen somebody discriminated against because they aren’t Christian,” VanNatta said. “I do believe that Baylor allows freedom of speech when it comes to religion.”

According to 471 college and university presidents interviewed in the American Council on Education article, an overwhelming 96 percent said it is more important for colleges to allow students to be exposed to all types of speech even if they may find it offensive or biased than to protect students by prohibiting offensive or biased speech.

Needville sophomore Raquel Buenrostro said she agreed that students should be exposed to free speech, and said it’s vital for everyone to share who they are and what their beliefs are.

“I believe that freedom of speech is definitely more important than inclusion. People should always be able to speak their minds and stand up for what they believe in,” Buenrostro said.

With many public speakers coming to college campuses to speak on a variety of topics, students can hear what they have to say, or if the students don’t agree with the speaker’s views, protest what they have to say.

For example, in August 2017, Texas A&M University students protested a white nationalist rally featuring Richard Spencer, a prominent figure in the group. The event later had to be cancelled due to student protests and for public safety.

VanNatta said she believes students should have the opportunity to hear different people’s opinions.

“I definitely do believe that a college campus should try to bring in a wide variety of views and opinions through speakers, but I also do believe that it is the student bodies right to protest a speaker that they do not believe should not be speaking on that campus,” VanNatta. “But I don’t think that a college campus should be forced to not allow that person to speak because of that protest because it is your right to protest something you don’t believe in, but at the same time it is the college’s right to have certain speakers come in.”

She also said one of the reasons it is important to hear speakers discuss different topics is because having speakers with “different views and opinions is good because it helps students broaden their horizons and their views.”