Do college administrators have a duty to protect students against harmful speech and negative emotional consequences? Or is the purpose of college education to expose yourself to different views and build resiliency against bad ideas?

Explore all perspectives, stances, and arguments for and against free speech on college campuses with AllStances™ by AllSides.




Catalyzed by the “new American left” of the 1960’s, the original free speech movement on college campuses opposed administrators when they censored different perspectives and types of speech. Today, some students now oppose college authorities that permit open dialogue, insisting that certain perspectives and viewpoints are harmful and should be banned.

Should colleges adhere to free speech standards, or should some views be outside the bounds of acceptable speech?

Should hate speech be kept off campus, has it been defined too broadly, or is it not a valid concept at all?

Explore all the arguments, stances and perspectives around freedom of speech at colleges and universities. Keep in mind that stances aren't mutually exclusive — some might have viewpoints that align with multiple stances.

Are we missing a stance or perspective? Email us!


The Stances


Colleges Should Restrict Some Speech to Protect the Vulnerable

  • Restrict or prohibit some speakers
  • Prevent hate speech
  • Moderate speech on school property and related to school matters


Colleges Should Educate Students on Acceptable Speech, Provide Safe Spaces

  • Provide classes/resources on hate speech and microaggressions
  • Provide safe spaces and free speech zones
  • Discourage harmful speech


Colleges Should Not Limit Speech

  • Take no action against speech unless it encourages harm
  • Do not police speech or create speech codes
  • Ignore calls to silence certain speakers or views


Colleges Should Proactively Encourage Free Speech and Debate

  • Encourage free speech as a core part of the college education
  • Promote viewpoint diversity/traditional view of freedom of speech; 
  • Foster healthy arguments and competition of ideas


Colleges Should Limit Some Speech, but Not the Ideas Currently Being Restricted

  • Protect conservatives and other ideological minorities
  • Restrict the endorsement of far-left ideologies, like communism and socialism
  • Return to classical liberal ideas and education



Stance 1: Colleges Should Restrict Some Speech to Protect the Vulnerable

CORE ARGUMENT: Vulnerable students, such as immigrants, racial minorities or members of the LGBTQ+ community, are at risk of trauma when harmful speech goes unpunished. Colleges must take action.

More arguments for this stance:

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Stance 2: Colleges Should Promote Acceptable Speech

CORE ARGUMENT: Colleges should educate students on microaggressions, bias and hate speech. Administrators should provide ways for students to feel safe from harmful speech.

More arguments for this stance:

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Stance 3: Colleges Should Not Limit Speech

CORE ARGUMENT: Colleges should not police, moderate or restrict speech among the student body or faculty unless it encourages physical violence.

More arguments for this stance:

  • Banning certain ideas harms the people we wish to protect, weakening us psychologically and preventing us from establishing resiliency.
  • There is a correlation between a reduction in free speech (e.g. cancel culture and censorship) and an increase in suicide rates that some think might be causally related.
  • Universities should refrain from sanctioning faculty members for saying things that others find controversial.
  • Censorship and unjust crackdowns on speech are far too common on college campuses today.
  • Federal statute and Supreme Court precedent suggests that public universities are responsible for upholding students’ rights, including their right to free expression.
  • Objectively harmful opinions and actions can be more clearly identified, called out and condemned when freedom of speech is permitted.
  • Colleges should not discriminate who gets to speak based on their views, and should have a very high bar to qualify speech as harmful.
  • Cancellation of certain speakers or ideas is an assault on the liberalism that universities were founded upon.
  • “The assumption of freedom of speech, and of academic freedom, is that education is enhanced when there is more speech, not when government officials have the power to censor and punish speech they don’t like.”
  • “America is a land rooted in the ideas of a free society: the freedom to be who you are, to speak your mind and to innovate. By silencing our students and young people, we have started down a slippery slope.” 

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Stance 4: Colleges Should Promote Free Speech and Debate

CORE ARGUMENT: Free speech and open debate should be celebrated and enabled by colleges and their administrators. Students and colleges should ignore calls to silence speech.

More arguments for this stance:

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Stance 5: Colleges Should Limit Some Speech, but Not the Ideas Currently Being Restricted

CORE ARGUMENT: Marxism and socialism, which oppose the traditionally liberal open exchange of ideas, are invading university culture and curriculum. Colleges should discourage them.

More arguments for this stance:

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The Author:

Henry Brechter, AllSides Managing Editor, Center bias

Reviewers and Contributors:

Joseph Ratliff, AllSides Daily News Editor, Lean Left bias

Julie Mastrine, AllSides Director of Marketing, Lean Right bias

Matt Byrne, AllSides Director of Dialogue, Center bias

Andrew Weinzierl, AllSides Research Assistant, Lean Left bias

John Gable, AllSides CEO and Co-Founder, Lean Right bias

Antonio Ferme, AllSides Weekend Editor, Center bias