Free Speech For Students

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Freedom of speech is the right for one to express any opinion without censorship or restriction. Not only is it a fundamental right in the First Amendment of the US Constitution, but it is also an opportunity for the exchange of contrasting viewpoints.

UC Berkeley is the campus where the peaceful free speech movement began in 1964, but has become a place where true free speech is no longer permitted. Colleges are intended to be institutions that promote learning and the exchange of ideas from different points of view. UC Berkeley’s current chancellor, Nicholas Dirks, agreed with this idea by voicing his expectations of the school regarding free speech: “true free speech rejects homogeneity and uniformity, and embraces engagement across differences of background and perspective.”

The school may claim to still be behind true free speech, but its actions have not reflected this supposed support.  This lack of support has been reflected in the cancellation of events featuring controversial political speakers.  In February of 2017, Milo Yiannopoulos, an extreme right wing speaker, was forced to be removed from campus after violent protests erupted upon his arrival.

Students’ protests Milo’s appearance attracted outside agitators, which sparked violent riots resulting in $100,000 worth of damage to the school. These extreme protesters used methods of vandalizing the school including breaking windows, setting fires, and using pepper spray on conservative students. Shortly after, another wing speaker, Ann Coulter, had to cancel her appearance beforehand because of the school’s security concerns. Ann suggested that the school act by expelling any students who participated in violent acts. The school, however, ignored her suggestion and instead rescheduled her talk to a time when no students would be on campus. (Marc Randazza, “Dear Berkeley, Even Ann Coulter deserves free speech,” 4/24/17, CNN News

 UC Berkeley is as a public university, and has a duty to abide by the first amendment, especially because of the enormous sum of taxpayer dollars that go to the school. About $2.9 billion worth of federal tax money is funded towards research, and 370 million dollars goes directly to the campus (Jon Shcuppe, “Can Trump Block Money as Punishment for UC Berkeley Protests”, 2/23/17, NBC News

With all the money colleges receive, it is their duty to use some of the budget towards the safety of students regarding freedom of speech. This could be achieved by increasing security instead of cancelling events due to “dangerous conditions.”  On days of events featuring controversial speakers, the school should close off the campus to stop possible violent agitators, and include a better screening process of those wishing to enter the vicinity of the event. Those who violently interfere with the free- speech rights of others should face disciplinary action.

 We are petitioning to Janet Napolitano, the President of the University of California system, Nicholas Kirks, the Chancellor of U.C. Berkley, and Representative Steve Glazer, to highlight the issue to administrators, and put pressure on California State Legislature to pass the Goldwater institute proposal. Although our long-term goal is to pass a federal law, we believe that we should act locally by focusing on a California State law that would target UC Berkeley and other free-speech infringing schools in the state. This proposal mainly focuses on public universities, and, if put in place, will not only nullify restrictive codes, but also prevent administrators from disinviting speakers, no matter how controversial.

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