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Wayne Carter’s recent editorial in the Carroll County Times on “safe spaces” called attention to what has become an absurd issue on college campuses and – I’m sad to say – it’s coming into the professional working world more and more. While everyone should be able to count on a safe physical space at a campus, the term “safe space” has been co-opted by the radical, book-burning Left to mean safety from ideas that you disagree with or trouble you. 

The United States was founded on the very principle of free speech. Our Founding Fathers worked to establish a nation where the right to worship freely and voice our opinions is protected, regardless of how controversial it might be. In the constant pursuit of political correctness – which has morphed into protecting an individual from being offended – real, actual diversity of thought and expression is being suppressed. It’s being suppressed actively on many college campuses and it’s become widespread even in mainstream society.  The lack of ideological diversity – and punitive action against those who do not conform to liberal political views - has long been a problem in a lot of universities. I vividly remember having my grade reduced in a college political theory class because I – respectfully - expressed my belief in the existence of God to a professor. According to that professor, you couldn’t be considered a rational thinker unless you were an atheist. Conservative, non-conforming college students are often faced with the choice of either conceding their ideological beliefs on assignments or face the probability of receiving lower grades from a professor whose mission has become not to teach, but espouse his or her radical and liberal political agenda. 

However, the very freedom to even speak one’s mind on college campuses is what is now under attack and the fight is escalating. Radicalized students with the support of their professors and often the administration protest the mere presence of conservative leaning speakers on college campuses. Earlier in the year, two different right-leaning speakers were scheduled to speak at University of California, Berkeley. The students rioted and caused thousands of dollars in property damage. The university and town police basically stood by and gave them the “space to destroy”. Sound familiar? This spring, at a New England college, a mild-mannered economist who worked for a conservative think-tank was set upon by a raging mob and assaulted, simply because he was identified as a conservative Republican. This behavior is toxic to the principle of free speech in our country. College is supposed to be the arena where students are exposed to multiple opinions and views on important issues. It is then up to the student to reason based on the facts at hand. When conservative speakers and groups are shut out of participating on college campuses, freedom of speech suffers and students don’t get the opportunity to hear a full exchange of ideas. Intellectuals on the Left often claim that they are just “for what works” in public policy – which is conveniently always more government, more spending, and higher taxes. Karl Marx and his later followers always claimed that socialism was scientific economics and a way to explain how history would end. So, on college campuses, the Left treats conservative thought leaders as though they are not truly scholarly or intellectual. No kooky or disproved economic or social theory is too far out there to be explored but traditional, American values are treated as, at best outdated, and at worst offensive.

It doesn’t have to be this way and it shouldn’t be. Colleges should not be a cocoon where only soothing, politically correct ideas can be discussed. Our students should be challenged by their professors and learn how to challenge back – respectfully – and people of all political stripes should be able defend their beliefs and state their opinions. This can only occur when all voices are given the chance to be heard. There are liberal activists who take to the streets to protest President Trump at every opportunity and, as long as they are peaceful, they are free to do so – as they should be. There should be an equal opportunity for presentation of non-liberal viewpoints in an open and peaceful manner on our college campuses without the fear of riot or retribution by over-zealous faculty. As we prepare for the 2018 Legislative Session, I am looking at possible legislation to help ensure that all voices on college campuses are able to compete in the free market battle of ideas.
Sen. Justin Ready

The writer is a Maryland State Senator representing District 5