Free speech is an integral part of our constitution. The First Amendment gives us freedoms that most countries do not have. If we bar people from handing out flyers on campus, not only are we restricting freedom of speech, but we are also setting the example that different opinions are not allowed on campus.
David Hudson, a law professor at Vanderbilt University who has written about free speech zones, was quoted in the Seattle Times saying, “I worry that when we talk about zoning speech, we’re really talking about limiting it.”
Hudson hit the nail right on the head. Free speech zones are just another way of restricting the people who are passing out flyers in the first place. When a college creates a free speech zone, the size of the zone is at the discretion of the college, and the students don’t get a say at all. This means your zone can be as little or big as the college you’re attending wants it to be.
That doesn’t sound like free speech to me. A university provides a unique place where different ideas can clash in a friendly environment meant for education on both sides of the isle. College for students with differences to come together and listen to one another in a way that you just don’t find anywhere else.
By not allowing outsiders to hand out flyers, or limiting the places in which people can speak, the message is being sent out to the students that their opinions don’t matter, and that their voice cannot be heard.
Pierce College made national headlines when a man named Kevin Shaw was told to stop handing out copies of the constitution at Pierce. School officials told him he needed to do so in the school’s free speech zone, and that he needed a permit, which is ridiculous.
Authur Willner, a lawyer working with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) stated in the Portland Press Herald that, “At the very moment when colleges and universities should be encouraging open debate and the active exchange of ideas, Pierce College instead sends the message to its students that free speech is suspect and should be ever more tightly controlled.”
Pierce completely sent the wrong message. If we want to be a campus that is accepting of all different types of backgrounds, religions and races, then we must allow people to speak their mind.
Free speech on campuses is how progress is made in our country. And if we constantly limit students on how to say or how to act with their opinion, then we are no worse than countries that control the media.