Executive Editor and FIRE Intern Erin Dunne Talks Free Speech on Campus

In the end, we were pleasantly surprised as many of those whom we interviewed demonstrated a robust understanding of and appreciation for free speech. I can only hope to say the same about my peers on campus this fall.

 

Over the past few years debates about free speech have become flash points at colleges and universities across the country. Students, administrators and professors have weighed in on both sides of the issue, sometimes calling for more censorship and sometimes emerging as staunch defenders of the First Amendment. While these exchanges are often passionate and the participants well-intentioned, a recent study from the Newseum Institute indicates that many college students and Americans have a less than through understanding of the protections afforded by the First Amendment.

Indeed, while a majority of respondents indicated that they supported free speech, when asked about specific scenarios support dwindled. This is an alarming trend and one well worth further investigation. Thus, this past week, with fellow interns at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, I tried to gain a deeper understanding of modern American views on free speech and the first amendment by asking people on the streets of Philadelphia.

The goal of this work was not to pose “gotcha” questions but rather to explore how different people with different backgrounds understand the First Amendment. In the end, we were pleasantly surprised as many of those whom we interviewed demonstrated a robust understanding of and appreciation for free speech. I can only hope to say the same about my peers on campus this fall.

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About Erin Dunne

Erin Dunne is a senior studying History, French and International Studies. In her free time she is a drug policy reform advocate and a free speech enthusiast. You can reach her by email at eedunne@umich.edu