On Wednesday, March 6th, Iowa State Student Government voted to rescind support of Iowa Senate File 274 and House File 316. This bill was focused around free speech on college campuses in the State of Iowa.
I am currently serving as a College of Engineering Senator in Student Government. I unfortunately was not able to attend the full meeting on Wednesday evening. However, I was able to hear the arguments during open forum on Wednesday and the previous Wednesday about how this bill was an endorsement of discrimination.
I come to a different conclusion on Section 3.3 (the section that would allow for clubs on campus to set their own parameters for leadership in their organization) of the Free Speech bill currently in the Iowa Legislature than many of peers do for reasons that I explained in the Student Government Senate meeting on Wednesday, February 28th. I still believe personally that the full legislation should be supported. However, had I been in attendance Wednesday, I would have voted in favor of rescinding support for Section 3.3 because that is what my constituents wanted.
What I would not have voted in favor of is the full rescinding of support for Iowa Senate File 274 and House File 316. I believe that it is dangerous for any institution of higher learning to not fully endorse free speech on its campus.
I hear the arguments about there already being free speech on campus and that this bill does nothing. To that I ask, why didn’t we support it then? Reaffirming our commitment to free speech is something that we as a student body should be doing every single day. Open and honest debate is the only way that society has ever been moved forward. It is the true bedrock of our constitutional republic.
I hear the arguments about how this can open the door for hate speech on our campus. To this point I ask, hate speech defined by whom? We all know that there are hateful people in this world, and we all as decent people believe that these individuals should be condemned. However, hate speech has no formal definition. Where does the line get drawn? Who has the power to draw that line? Since we cannot answer these questions effectively, free speech of all kinds is protected. We all might believe that this is not the ideal solution, but it is the best solution that we have for protecting the rights of all, at all times, equally.
The best way to approach horrendous ideas is with better ideas, not with attempts to silence them. Silencing doesn’t change minds. It only deepens hate. I would rather openly know the people I need to defeat in intellectual battle than have those people living in the shadows. Hateful people need to be exposed and made to defend their ideology, because the only time hate speech wins is when the other side is not allowed to combat it with their own speech.
Wednesday night, Nicholas Fuentes spoke in the free speech zone near the tree of oppression. In my opinion, Fuentes represents the worst of ideas out there, that the color of your skin matters when it comes to being a productive member of society in a creedal nation like the United States. Many other students agreed with me, and by the Daily’s own reporting, more protestors were at the event than supporters. The good ideas won out, and I can guarantee that more good than bad will come from this event because we as a society rally when we believe injustice is being done.
Free speech works when we allow it free reign. The Iowa State Community would do well to remember that.