I attend American University (AU) in Washington D.C. AU is a fine school with a world-class teaching staff and bright young students hungry for knowledge. 

Every new student is required to take a class that focuses on issues of race, gender, and structures of power. Some might instinctively cringe at the very thought of even taking this class, but I genuinely found it interesting. 

As a class we navigated highly contentious social topics with discussion and sometimes tense, but civil, debate. I never felt for a moment that I could not freely speak my mind, share an opinion, or ask a question. Some students certainly spoke more than others, particularly those with first-hand experience, which is to be expected. 

My personal experience was overall positive. But, this has not always been the case for other students I have spoken with… Talking to my peers one-on-one revealed their shock and surprise when I spoke favorably of the class.

Many people conveyed to me their sense of marginalization in class. They did not feel comfortable sharing their experiences, voicing their opinions, or challenging the conclusions of others for fear of ostracization by their classmates. Why? Is this “cancel culture run amok” on an overwhelmingly left-leaning campus? Hardly…

Being a young student away from home for the first time can be very challenging. You find yourself in a foreign environment surrounded by people in the same position while you all struggle to understand and define yourselves. It is natural to want to fit in with your peers and adopt the same interests, hobbies, and perspectives. 

Therefore, the thought of doing anything different can be anxiety-inducing. 

College ideally serves as a vessel for personal and intellectual growth. For the staggering amount of money paid to attend college, you ought to freely speak your mind when you have something to say. The consequences of not doing so are far worse than getting loudly gaslit by your emotionally unstable classmate.

By avoiding the potential micro-conflict with a dissenting student or professor, you lose the most valuable thing that college has to offer – the opportunity to learn and grow. The window of opportunity to spend hours of your life discussing and debating the hard questions of the world around you with a diverse group of people your same age only lasts 4-6 years. The spaces for this type of discourse outside of college are few and far between. 

Do not let fear of being different or the assumption of ‘cancel culture’ define you or your college experience. Do not assume an invisible cancel culture boogeyman will punish you for being yourself. Colleges pride themselves on being inclusive environments, so make it a point to include yourself. You are entitled as much as anyone one else to express your view in a courteous and intelligent way; let the chips fall where they may.

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This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions.

The views in this essay are expressly those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the United States government or department of defense. This article was not written for, in coordination with, or on behalf of American University.