Activist: Free speech needed on campuses

Shiri Marwaha, Staff Reporter

Free speech on campus matters now more than ever, a speaker sponsored by the Young Americans for Liberty said on Monday, March 4.

Lauren Cooley, a free speech activist, spoke to students about the pressing need of free speech in campuses nationwide and encouraged new ideas from the youth.

“When society is so polarized there is a need to develop tolerance and accept different ideas and not be shallow enough to base friendships on ideologies of people,” Cooley said.

She said free speech should not lead to physical violence and people need to understand the different cultural and physical ramifications that occur if violence happens.

Cooley said people needed to learn that multiple viewpoints could coexist in this country.

“The rise of anti-free speech is dangerous,” she said. “A solution would be to sharpen our arguments instead of not talking about it at all.”

Comparing free speech to a medicine, Cooley said that it is a light that can “disinfect society of its constricting ways.

“You can only control how you react, so take the high ground and say I disagree with you and here is why and explain your reasoning,” she said.

Speaking about a recent incident at UC Berkley in which a Trump supporter was punched in the face for expressing a conservative opinion.

Cooley mentioned that the growing intolerance among youth didn’t happen overnight, but was created over a period of time.

“Creating safe spaces and normalizing them in colleges can strip the opportunity to develop critical thinking among students,” said Cooley. “Let’s make colleges great again.”

Before ending her speech, Cooley urged the the audience with a familiar quote saying “Sticks and stones may break our bones but words will never harm us.”

Cooley said her own college experiences pushed her towards this goal in life. Cooley mentioned her higher education and has been traveling to various campuses across the country for 2 and a half years, advocating free speech and encouraging new ideas among the youth.

”People with different opinions should be accepted,” said Christian Nguyen, 19, an organizer of the event and sociology and history major. “A different opinion doesn’t mean they cannot be respected.”