As a journalist, I interview people with diverse opinions. Opinions I do not always agree with. But regardless of whether I agree, my job is to listen to and record those opinions without interjecting my own. I think more people should take this approach, allowing different groups and individuals the chance to voice and defend their opinions, regardless of how unpopular those opinions may be. Instead of limiting someone’s free speech by trying to silence them, listen to their side so you can get the facts before responding.

Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, agrees.  Lukianoff gave the keynote address during UNC’s First Amendment Day. He said students are learning to silence unpopular speech as a kind of noble act, and this kind of behavior limits speech. It kills the potential to debate different views openly.

The disruptive protests at the Tom Tancredo speech prove that this phenomenon is apparent on UNC’s campus.

I encourage students to break this trend and to be more open-minded about conflicting opinions. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with everyone, or that you can’t defend your own opinion. It means respecting other opinions as well as your own and respecting the rights of others to voice those opinions. Take the time to hear other people out—you may be surprised. By hearing other opinions, you will be aware of different viewpoints and discover where you stand in relation to others.

-MaryAnn Barone