Are Students Killing their own First Amendment Rights?

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), headed by its President first amendment attorney Greg Lukianoff, is known for exposing and fighting the free speech stifling on college campuses. However, within the life of the organization there has been a major shift from protecting the words of students from administrative silencing, to the reverse. Many comedians, including Chris Rock, no longer perform at colleges due to the potential for over-sensitivity of students in response to certain jokes. FIRE’s film currently in theaters, “Can We Take a Joke?” documents and comments on a newfound intolerance of some subjects for humor.

The organization, according to Lukianoff, is fighting back on the movement in contemporary college campuses in which students want to rid the spaces of “certain words, idea, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense.” Lukianoff cites an incident at Harvard Law when law students asked their professor to not teach rape law, or use the term “violate” in any context, in order to prevent any potential discomfort and triggers. Many legal professionals equate this to allowing medical students to be afraid of blood.

Is the backlash of students against free speech disrupting education and growth on college campuses? Where do we draw the line for subjects we are willing to shield students from in the classroom?