College campuses are “a shelter for fragile egos,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a September speech at Georgetown University.
“The American University was once the center of academic freedom, a place of robust debate, a forum for the competition of ideas,” he said. “But it is transforming into an echo chamber of political correctness and homogenous thought,” and freedom of speech on campuses is “under attack.”
Sessions was referring to a series of protests by college students against controversial right-wing speakers who gave speeches on campuses.
In April, violence occurred between protesters and supporters of white nationalist Richard Spencer at Auburn University, where he was giving a speech.
In September, the University of California, Berkeley, had to cancel the “Free Speech Week” event hosted by a conservative student group because of fears of violence and chaos. The group invited speakers, such as British political commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, an associate with the alt-right, conservative commentator Ann Coulter, and former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.
“Conservative speeches can be hateful,” Lauren Rappaport, an art major at American University, said. “Their speeches make others feel uncomfortable.”
Rappaport understands that the First Amendment protects hateful speech, but on a private campus like American University, students have the rights to choose what they hear.
“You can say what you can but it doesn’t mean you should,” she said.
College Republicans have also become the target of protests.
A student at the University of California, Riverside, was reportedly assaulted by a fellow student for wearing “Make America Great Again” hat.
The head of Columbia University College Republicans was concerned about his group members’ safety after flyers containing their personal information were spread online and around the campus by an Antifa group last month, according to a Fox News interview.
A recent Pew Research Center survey found that, while the Democrats’ view of colleges and universities’ impact on the country has been positively going up, the Republicans’ is heading the other way.
Two years ago, 37 percent of Republicans viewed colleges and universities negatively. Today, almost 60 percent of them believe that these institutions have an adverse impact on the country,
The survey shows that from 2010 to 2015, the percentage of Republicans with negative views of colleges and universities had gone up steadily but slowly, by only five percent, compared to the past two years, where the number skyrocketed.
The survey was conducted this summer among more than 2,500 adults from both sides of the political spectrum on how they saw national institutions, including news media, labor unions, churches and religious groups, banks and financial institutions, and colleges and universities.
In his Georgetown speech, Sessions said that protesters across the country are shutting down speeches and debates because those speeches did not “insufficiently conform their views.”
His speech was protested by the university’s students and faculty.
“Protesting is part of the free speech,” Maya Vizvary, 32, a faculty member at American University, said.