At Iowa Central, students are reminded of speech freedoms
Recent controversies such as protests and counterprotests that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, during the summer sparked David Drissel, a professor at Iowa Central Community College, to focus on freedom of speech during a presentation to students Monday afternoon.
“I feel the need to focus on freedom of speech this year due in part to the recent controversies surrounding hate speech and hate groups,” Drissel said. “And also protests on college campuses around the country involving controversial speakers.”
Drissel presented information relating to free speech and the U.S. Constitution on Iowa Central’s main campus to commemorate U.S. Constitution Day, which was Sunday.
About 20 students attended the lecture.
Every educational institution that receives federal funding must have some sort of an annual program or presentation to recognize U.S. Constitution Day, according to Drissel.
“I feel like it’s important to remind everyone of our freedoms,” Drissel said. “Particularly freedom of speech in that the Bill of Rights protects not just popular speech, but also unpopular speech. By definition, the Bill of Rights protects our individual rights not group rights. Even unpopular speech is still protected speech.”
In August, white supremacists and counter-demonstrators gathered in Charlottesville after a rally was planned to protest against the removal of a General Robert E. Lee statue.
The protests ultimately led to violence as a man sped into a crowd of anti-racist protesters, killing one and injuring 19 others, according to published news reports.
Drissel said rallies cannot be stopped just because someone does not agree with what’s being said.
“Constitutionally, it can’t be shut down because they don’t like what the guy is saying,” he said.
However, freedom of speech is not protected when the speech incites violence, according to Drissel.
“It has to be risk of imminent disorder and violence,” he said.
Drissel believes the answer to hate speech is more speech.
“The best antidote to hate speech is not less speech, but more speech,” he said. “I strongly favor speaking out against hate speech, but do not support any attempts to forcibly shut down a speech or speaker that I might find offensive.
“We must not let the far left or the far right violate or dilute our basic First Amendment freedoms, no matter what their rationale.”