Late last year, the National Coalition Against Censorship produced a list of the "15 Threats to Free Speech in 2015," detailing attacks on the First Amendment.
Some of the worst censorship Americans saw this past year occurred on college campuses, with "free speech zones" and avoidance of controversial material in the classroom making the list.
"One way to keep a lid on free speech is to tell citizens that they have First Amendment rights — sort of," the group wrote. "A student at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona was prevented by campus police from handing out animal rights flyers because he hadn't obtained the appropriate 'badge' to participate in the school's free speech zone."
The student filed a lawsuit with the help of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and settled with the school. Schools across the nation have adopted such limitations on the First Amendment. A report from FIRE found that roughly 1 in 6 of America's "top colleges and universities" have free speech zones.
NCAC also listed "teaching — or avoiding — 'controversial' material'" as a threat to free speech. The group told the story of a high school in Virginia that initially refused to ban a documentary film from being shown, but later created a policy for teaching "sensitive" topics that required teachers to get permission to show controversial material.
While NCAC didn't specifically mention the phrase, this sounds a lot like "trigger warnings" or "safe spaces," where students complain that material they disagree with or that may remind them of something bad that happened to them or someone else at some point in their life must either be removed or come with a blurb noting what bad experience may be discussed.
Now, the NCAC is hardly a right-leaning organization. Another example the organization gave was of a congressman demanding documents from climate change researchers, and "threatening prosecution if he doesn't get his way," which the reports says amounts to censorship of free speech. They also scolded conservatives for suggesting that Advanced Placement courses show an "anti-American" bias and should return to an older framework that was not so biased.
But at least they recognized that bastions of left-wing thought are also responsible for censorship.
Ashe Schow is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.