FIRE's Greg Lukianoff: This is 'One of the Worst Years' for Campus Free Speech


There is growing evidence that free speech is under threat at college campuses across the United States. A recent Pew Research Center survey shows that 40 percent of millennials are okay with the government limiting speech if it offends minority groups, and it seems that we're treated to headlines about students having their safe spaces violated daily (which Robby Soave covers beautifully here at Reason).  

In a recent interview with Nick Gillespie, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education's Greg Lukianoff posits that students aren't really against free speech, they just haven't been taught the concept of free speech correctly.

"Freedom of speech is really a sophisticated concept," says Lukianoff. "We are so used to it in America that we sometimes forget just how sophisticated it is. Meanwhile if you have a K-12 environment or a parental environment when people are explaining that free speech is just the argument the bully, the bigot, and the robber baron make—that is morally persuasive. And if no one has ever explained to you otherwise, of course you are going to think that free speech is the mean person's argument."

To that end, FIRE partnered with director (and former Reason TV producer) Ted Balaker to produce Can We Take a Joke?, a documentary about the intersection of comedy, campus censorship, and outrage culture. The film, which wasrecently picked up by Samuel Goldwyn Films and is set for release this summer, includes interviews with Gilbert Gottfried, Penn Jillette, Lisa Lampanelli, Adam Carolla, Jim Norton, and others. FIRE and Young Americans for Liberty are sponsoring a week of preview screenings across college campuses starting April 13.

I tend to agree with Lukianoff's assertion that students are missing the point when it comes to the idea of free speech. When I accompanied Reason TV producer Zach Weissmueller to Occidental College last December to ask students about free speech rights, they all agreed free speech was important, but seemed to struggle when differentiating between hate speech and things assholes say. 

You can watch all of Greg's interview below, and be on the look out for Can We Take A Joke?, which is set for release this summer. 

Thumbnail photo by Cory Doctrow/Flickr