Free speech becoming major issue on campus


Free speech rights are one of the most talked about current political debates in this country right now; specifically, whether hate speech should be protected under the first amendment. There are examples of this debate around America from the Charlottesville protests to Black Lives Matter movements.

There was an excellent example of this controversy on campus during this year’s Fall Fest: a student organization called Turning Point hosted a bake sale at this event, but it was not just any bake sale. They set up an affirmative action bake sale, where one would be required to pay more or less for the baked goods based on the customer’s skin color. This raises the question: Should controversial actions like this be allowed on campus?

CU Denver’s Turning Point USA at President, Mason Steiner, had a few words to say about this potential controversy. “I believe any speech that is not directly inciting violence should be protected,” Steiner said.

“I believe any person who appreciates their freedom of speech should fight tooth and nail to protect ours. Speech should not be illegal, and it’s a scary trend that people have begun treating it as such. We did not hurt anyone with the Affirmative Action bake sale, and we were simply bringing our issues with Affirmative Action into a smaller scale. If colleges can charge tuition differently for different races, how is that any different than a bake sale, or any less egregious? We believe in focusing on the content of someone’s character rather than their skin color. Programs such as affirmative action raise skin color over character and if selling cookies to show that difference is how we can bring that issue to light, then that’s how we’ll do it.”

Turning Point USA also held a similar Affirmative Action bake sale at an event at the University of New Mexico this year, as reported by KOB4, a local news station in Albuquerque. The event seemed to cause quite a spark of controversy at this campus as well. Turning Point USA’s primary goal, as stated by Steiner, “is a non-profit, non-partisan organization. Our primary goal is to lead education, discussion, and activism about the benefits of free markets and small governments.”

“While the bake sale was controversial, it created a lot of discussions and that’s what we’re after: getting people talking,” Steiner said. “We feel like the education that students are receiving in college is heavily one sided, so we would like to foster open discussion and education about why we need to keep our government small and preserve personal liberty. In addition, we try to create grassroots efforts to defend free speech on college campuses. The Turning Point chapter in Boulder, for example, was a major part in abolishing free speech zones on public campuses in Colorado.”

Turning Point was involved in pushing for Senate Bill 62, which was a bill set against free speech zones on public college campuses. According to Steiner, he feels as if Turning Points goals are being achieved due to the “great discussions with people on all sides of the political aisle.”

Turning Point at CU Denver is not currently officially recognized as a student organization and thus did not have a table at this year’s Fall Fest. According to Nelson Rodriguez, Assistant Director for Student Life and Campus Affairs, “The student chapter recently applied for university recognition on the morning of Sep 28. However, there was missing information on their application and they are in the process of resubmitting.”

These types of organizations and events can cause great controversy on public college campuses, and the debate as to if this type speech should be protected as free speech is still a lively conversation in the lives of the people involved.

Photo Credit: Kalob McConnell – CU Sentry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *