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Three years ago, in my senior year of college, I remember an email landing in my inbox. 

It was an open letter from the campus’s free speech coalition, responding to an email that the dean of the public policy school sent to students days earlier. The dean had decried the “not guilty” verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse case, calling it “a dangerous precedent.” 

The open letter called on the university to adopt the principle of institutional neutrality and to uphold the tenets of free speech and expression on campus. It urged the university to refrain from taking political positions on the news.

Regardless of my views on the verdict, I believed in the principles of the letter from the free speech coalition. But I didn’t sign it. I was scared of being judged, labeled, called names—or worse—being canceled

Looking back, I wish I had signed it. 

Free speech is the bedrock of a free society—essential for scientific progress, artistic expression, social justice, and democracy. But we live in an era in which free speech is seen as political. Where the very notion of hearing ideas from people you disagree with is viewed as suspect or even morally wrong.

Our campus culture today says it’s okay to shut down viewpoints you disagree with.

There are the obvious ways this happens—through campaigns to disinvite controversial figures from campus or shout them down once they are there. But there are more subtle ways, too. There’s the unspoken, but very real, pressure in class to not question the information being presented, or to shy away from speaking up and offering a different perspective out of fear of being judged harshly by your peers. 

My longing to find a nonjudgmental home for my intellectual curiosity is actually why I started reading Bari Weiss’s Substack, then called Common Sense. At first, I read it in secret—like I was hiding a relationship I didn’t want others to know about. But then I started mentioning some of the articles I had read in conversation with my family. I also texted a few pieces to my friends to see what they thought. 

I realized that not only did other people actually appreciate reading what I sent, but we all enjoyed the conversations that followed. It was liberating. Maybe they, too, were harboring these same radical urges I had—to ask questions, to challenge the status quo, to find a home to investigate the truth, and to not live in fear of what they might uncover. 

That’s why I joined The Free Press as a reporter. And that’s also why I think all college students today should read our pages—because reading independent journalism might allow them to dig deeper into an important topic facing society today. It might inspire a conversation; it might anger or upset them; it might radically challenge their beliefs and force them to think; and it might even inspire them to change their minds. 

Isn’t that what college is all about? 

Had I read The Free Press back when I got that petition in my inbox, I suspect I would have had the courage to sign it. It’s our hope that a year of The Free Press will inspire college students to think for themselves and have the confidence to stand up for what they believe in. 

That’s why we are so excited to offer 1,000 free subscriptions for college students committed to the radical belief of thinking and speaking freely. 

To take advantage of this offer, CLICK HERE.

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