Declaration of Support for ASB Senator Andrew Soper and Freedom of Expression on Campus
This petition had 729 supporters
We submit this petition in support of (1) the free exchange of ideas and opinions, without fear of consequence, on the University of Mississippi campus, and (2) Associated Student Body Campus (ASB) Senator Andrew Soper, as a counter against calls to impeach him.
Those calling for Mr. Soper’s impeachment assert that he “publicly expresses and sympathizes with racist and homophobic sentiments – sentiments which absolutely challenge the respect and dignity of each person, and are especially heinous, considering he is an official elected by the student body” and, therefore, render him unfit for office as a representative for the Ole Miss ASB.
It is troubling, however, that the creator of the impeachment petition does not include evidence of Mr. Soper’s words or conduct warranting such a serious allegation. Equally troubling is the possibility that, due to the very emotionally charged issues being discussed on campus right now, Mr. Soper’s character is being attacked because he (a) espouses a differing viewpoint from those that are calling for his impeachment, and (b) has been vocal in expressing his opinions.
A cursory look at Mr. Soper’s social media accounts merely suggests that he supports the use of the current Mississippi state flag on campus. Additionally, Mr. Soper has stated that he would “endorse any state flag that the people and government of Mississippi endorse.”
While we understand our university’s complex history and the conflicts and problems it still faces today, we believe that one of the most fundamental values of American society is that of free speech. Such a value was implemented, not to protect speech that all parties of an issue agree on, but to protect speech that may be controversial. (It should also be noted that protected free speech does NOT include hate speech. To date, no definitive proof has been produced that Mr. Soper engaged in the use of hate speech—thus far, such an accusation appears based solely on conjecture.) We believe this fundamental value should be vigorously defended, especially at an institution of higher learning.
While the number of community members calling for Mr. Soper’s impeachment is relatively few (http://www.change.org/p/university-of-mississippi-associated-student-body-campus-senate-university-of-mississippi-associated-student-body-campus-senate-impeach-andrew-soper), we circulate this petition as a declaration that the Ole Miss student body endorses the expression of differing, non-hate speech viewpoints—without risk of consequence, retaliation, or slander—on our campus.
(Please note that this petition is NOT a statement of opinion on the Mississippi state flag debate, nor an endorsement of Mr. Soper’s opinions. Rather, it is a nonpartisan declaration of support for Mr. Soper's right to express his viewpoint, and the bigger principle of the protection of free speech on the University campus.)
Until objective evidence is produced that Mr. Soper exhibited discriminatory behavior, hate speech, and/or words or actions that demean the dignity of members of the Ole Miss community, or otherwise proved himself unfit for office as a student body representative, we hereby express our support for Mr. Soper’s continued service as an ASB campus senator and the free exchange of ideas and opinions on the University of Mississippi campus.
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