Is Dialogue Dead on College Campuses?

Over recent years college campus life has seen a drastic change in policy. The expansion of equity service and organizations with a goal towards equality have changed the nature of conversations among students. Policies regarding hurtful or hate speech have also had impacts on the interaction within dorms, classrooms and daily life. College is a time in life for self-exploration and self-discovery, yet we see dialogue being corroded or even dismissed.

A popular notion around most college campuses is the idea to combat hate speech. Before delving into the effects and purpose of combating hateful rhetoric we need to define what it is. Hate speech is defined as the use of words that terrorize, humiliate, degrade, abuse, harass, threaten, and discriminate based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, or gender. We must recognize the point that interpreting hate speech can be difficult, especially in terms of defining it. Airing on the side of caution, universities have taken many measures to try to create an inclusive and safe environment. Unfortunately, doing so has had extensive impacts on communication, conversation, and dialogue. This is because universities have allowed a flawed system for determining hate speech to be put into place. Recipients or bystanders usually determine what is hate speech and what is not. Whether the speech is actually hateful or not, the recipient of the speech can determine whether it is hateful based on their own feelings. Using an emotional state as a measure of malice can be extremely dangerous and result in the suppression of dialogue. We see this all across colleges campuses in America, such as University of Wisconsin-Madison's policy that punishes students for disrupting free expression of others. ( Polices are being based off of feelings and emotions nowadays more than ever. Since feelings and emotional states are relatively sub-cognitive and subjective to interpretation, they lack a clear outline on what speech is truly hurtful.

Students who are not sheltered from difficult conversations formulate a capacity to develop new perspectives and engage in challenging dialogue. We can recognize the flaw of combating hate speech but also acquire an idea of respect, and that must be the set standard to create a decent society. Establishing a basic level of respect among one another helps thrive dialogue on college campuses.

As the ways of communicating with one another change so does our approach to dialogue. The way the internet has had an impact on human dialogue has been extremely significant. With article after article disparaging the effects of technology on dialogue, using technology to expand genuine/compelling dialogue among individuals is essential in an age where face to face interactions have become limited. With social norms, dialogue in an academic setting, speech safety, respectable interplay, and technology, we can conclude dialogue on college campuses has always been ever-changing.

But is dialogue dead?

To some, dialogue on college campuses is dead. From limitations on types of speech to the rare occasions of face to face conversations, a conclusion of such probably wouldn’t be challenged. Dialogue, communication, and social interaction have no doubt changed. The problems lie in the dealings of hate speech, in which have been improper and destructive. We need processes that establish a set of reasonable standards and abide by the first amendment while executing a high level of respect for an individual. Fighting destructive social norms with modest decency and the cooperative expansion of technology, there should be no reason people can’t profoundly connect with one another. The ideas of effective communication and genuine conversations is what is meant by the definition of dialogue. So go out and talk to people! Have engaging and difficult conversations! When we step out of our comfort zones while respecting others that's when we are at our best in society.

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