Tennessee’s Campus Free Speech Protection Act
Ultimately, the Campus Free Speech Protection Act asks us to individually reflect on an important question: Do I support the free speech of those with whom I disagree—even those whose opinions I find offensive? To truly be an advocate for free speech, I believe, one must support the free speech of those he or she finds disagreeable. From this perspective, free speech is of great value to a tolerant society. Free speech, Lee Bollinger notes, “involves a special act of carving out one area of social interaction for extraordinary self-restraint, the purpose of which is to develop and demonstrate a social capacity to control feelings evoked by a host of social encounters” (cited in Chemerinsky, 2011, p. 958). Are we carving out that space by supporting free speech at our public institutions, or are we contributing to a siloed society wherein we never encounter or engage with those who think and speak differently from ourselves? The Campus Free Speech Protection Act, one can hope, carves out spaces for dialogue. I believe our public institutions better serve our society (and themselves) if they are committed to supporting free speech. This approach can, at times, be risky, but the potential reward is greater than what can be reaped when institutions are in the business of shielding faculty and students from offensive speech.