San Diego State University Undermines Student's Freedom of Expression
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My roommate and I wanted to express ourselves by putting up service flags and an American flag on our balcony. The following week we received a formal write up from SDSU judicial officers without any prior warning stating that we are in violation of policy. We had familiarized ourselves without policy beforehand and also asking our community advisor if we were in violation, and he determined that we were not in violation. We tried to present our argument to the judicial officers specifically Elizabeth Erlich, she was reluctant to listen to our stance and how we were not in violation. Our stance is that by expressing ourselves with American and service flags on our balcony are not a violation of any policy. Rather, this was the residence hall staff’s unjustified attempt at censorship and violates our first amendment rights. If you are a believer of free speech on University campuses I encourage you to read the argument we presented to the judicial officers, who would not give us the time of day presented below: I just received email saying that I violated policy for decorations and was not given specifics of how I was in violation of policy, which violates my right to know what I am being accused of and the explicit policy that I violated. I have thoroughly read the San Diego state University housing license agreement, Piedra Del Sol Addendum, and the student housing license agreement form which are the only documents. I have signed them all and I have yet to see how I have violated any of the policies stated. If I am being being punished for a document that I did not sign that is unconstitutional. The university has already taken disciplinary action towards my alleged violation in the form a formal warming without due process. My concern is not centered around the disciplinary action, instead I would like the residence hall staff to recognize student’s abilities to freely express themselves without fear of repercussions. Please take the time to read the piedra del sol agreement which can be accessed at https://newscenter.sdsu.edu/housing/files/04840-PiedraDelSol.pdf. and navigate to page 35 which is in the policies and regulations section and look at the heading Windows Balconies, and Patios under this heading their is a section that states that "No items except patio furniture may be placed on balconies and patios." If you look up the definition of furniture it states that it means "noun 1.the movable articles, as tables, chairs, desks or cabinets, required for use or ornament in a house, office, or the like. 2.fittings, apparatus, or necessary accessories for something. 3.equipment for streets and other public areas, as lighting standards, signs, benches, or litter bins." Now i would also like to debunk a counter argument that you may have. in the policy section again under the same heading mentioned earlier it states that " Hangings, partitions, or curtains of any type may not be used on balconies or patios." A flag is not a a partition because a partition is "noun 1. a division into or distribution in portions or shares. 2. a separation, as of two or more things. 3. something that separates or divides." A flag is also not a curtain because a curtain is "noun 1. a hanging piece of fabric used to shut out the light from a window, adorn a room, increase privacy, etc. 2. a movable or folding screen used for similar purposes." Lastly the flag is not hanging it is fixed, because the definition of hanging is "verb (used with object), hung or especially for 4, 5, 20, hanged; hanging. 1. to fasten or attach (a thing) so that it is supported only from above or at a point near its own top; suspend. 2. to attach or suspend so as to allow free movement: to hang a pendulum. 3. to place in position or fasten so as to allow easy or ready movement." Whereas the definition of fixed is "adjective 1. fastened, attached, or placed so as to be firm and not readily movable; firmly implanted; stationary; rigid" Our Flags our firmly attached to our balcony with Velcro and does not easily move. An American flag fits all of these definitions and it is clearly designed for outdoor use. In light of this information, no policies have been violated. Furthermore, if the university is genuinely concerned about student safety they should recognize that flags are neither a fire hazard nor any breach of safety. I suspect that the reason why this incident has occurred is not because of student safety but rather the university lacks the moral backbone to support cases such as mine and is too lazy to deal with other students who may take offense to a flag being portrayed in a residential setting. If this is true there needs to be a fundamental reformation of how the school handles freedom of expression in the form of the first amendment. As a student I felt compelled to bring this issue to my peer’s awareness for the purpose of productive discussion. The issue is clear students should be allowed to express themselves in the comfort of their own residence without being subjugated to censorship.
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