Standing up to cancel culture begins on college campuses

It is no secret that free speech is under attack on college campuses across the country. It was not but a decade ago when my Latin American Politics professor told an entire classroom of 20-year-olds that White men are the source of all modern problems.

It seems like a weekly occurrence when news breaks that college students have been censored in their classrooms, extracurricular organizations and beyond. Take your pick of plentiful scenarios: a liberal professor teaching an alternate version of history, pushing slanted versions of the truth, or college administrators shutting down a campus guest speaker because his or her values do not align with those of the university’s liberal administration. 

Today’s college students have little recourse in fighting back against the progressivism that pervades every aspect of university life, often forced to regurgitate what their professors want to hear just to pass a class or be relegated to the only “free speech zone” on campus where one can speak freely and without persecution. Forget standing up for what you believe in — you’ll be labeled ‘racist,’ ‘sexist,’ an ‘alt-right troll,’ or worse; facts be damned.

Lest anyone forget, having the ability to speak freely and without persecution is enshrined in the United States Constitution. It may be easy for some on the left to forget, but the First Amendment guarantees the freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly, and petition. Not just in “free speech zones,” but anywhere and everywhere. You do not have to like what I say, but I have the right to say it — it’s a freedom men and women bearing the stars and stripes on their uniforms have fought and died for. Likewise, we may not always like or agree with the rhetoric of the left, but we must protect the right of those to say it. 

Students are rarely challenged by intellectual diversity; rarely presented with diverse viewpoints. Impressionable young minds pick up and believe what they are taught because if they stand for nothing, they will fall for anything. In the case of our institutions of higher learning, Marxism: check. Gender and women’s studies: check. Critical race theory: check. The American flag is a symbol of tyranny worldwide? Of course, if you ask a liberal professor. Campuses have become echo chambers for liberal ideas, forever cursed by groupthink.

When it comes to the stories of campus bias, the mainstream media will not cover them, choosing instead to leave the important coverage of First Amendment violations to right-leaning outlets, claiming there are no threats to free speech in the first place. To the Left, the very beliefs they hold are the ones being peddled in classrooms, both public and private, so you rarely hear them complaining. 

If you don’t believe me, take the University of California, Berkeley unconstitutionally suppressing free speech on campus in 2017 by canceling lectures given by two high-profile conservative speakers while letting those by liberal speakers go on as planned. At the University of Virginia, university administrators barred several conservative organizations from registering as officially recognized student clubs for their conservative values. 

But thankfully for conservative students at UC Berkeley, UVA, and hundreds of others across the country, there is a growing army of champions on Capitol Hill standing up to protect the First Amendment and ensure it is not so easily trampled.

Last week with my colleague Rep. Jim Jordan, we introduced the Congressional Campus Free Speech Caucus, a group of lawmakers committed to protecting the First Amendment and standing up for students’ rights to express themselves freely and without persecution. At the time of publication, we’re nearing 30 members in just two weeks. Our goal is to have all members of the House Republican Conference in the caucus, and even a few of our Democratic friends from across the aisle. 

Free speech is not owned by one party — it’s an American tenet and one worth vehemently defending. Our Framers knew what they were doing with the First Amendment and we’re committed to standing up for it because if we don’t, who will?

• Kat Cammack, a U.S. representative, is the youngest Republican woman in the 117th Congress. She represents North Central Florida and serves on the House Agriculture and Homeland Security Committees. Alongside Rep. Jim Jordan, she serves as the co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Campus Free Speech Caucus.

Sign up for Daily Opinion Newsletter