If you feel the need to self-censor around other students
College should be a time for exploring new ideas. While it is important to be aware of the way your language can affect others, students should also have the freedom to explore controversial topics or lines of inquiry.
Opting to stay quiet rather than voice a controversial opinion may feel good in the short term but will likely lead to a sense of frustration and isolation over time. Good friends are unlikely to spurn you over small disagreements.
USE FIRST PERSON
Prefacing thoughts as products of your own experience and perception can allow you to be assertive without sounding accusatory.
START A DIALOGUE
If you are grappling with an unpopular idea and want to voice it in a productive manner, consider framing it as a point of inquiry rather than as fact. Invite others’ responses and thoughts with a positive attitude toward dialogue and learning.
Know that words are powerful and that not everyone is coming to a conversation with the same background or experience. Consider educating yourself and reflecting on the history and implication of certain words and phrases that may alienate people. Sometimes refraining from saying something potentially hurtful is the right call.
If you feel the need to self-censor in the classroom and believe that the pressure to do so has affected your work or your academic experience, consider reaching out to the professor for support. If nothing changes, consider reaching out to other staff, such as a department chair, dean, bias response team, or other faculty.
FIND OTHER CHANNELS
Not all conversations are suited for every group. If you’re hoping to explore a new perspective and feel restricted in your current classes or social circles, you can seek other channels to test out new ideas.
Voicing unpopular opinions may result in pushback. Understand that while taking criticism can feel unpleasant, it is an unavoidable and intrinsic element of freedom of expression.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
No students should face academic consequences for expressing their personal beliefs in class. But, if your personal beliefs affect your willingness to do assigned academic work, then academic consequences may be reasonable. For example, if you refuse to do an assignment based on political objections to it, your professor would be within their rights to give you a failing grade.