The fight for free speech has been at the forefront of discussions at campuses across the country, gracing the tops of administrative meeting agendas and forming conversations between politically diverse students.
Disagreements, much like reflex reactions, are inevitable.
The key is to approach disagreements in a peaceful, respectful manner instead of with violence, as we have unfortunately seen in the past academic year. Violence is never the answer.
The First Amendment guarantees the right to free speech and peaceful assembly with the intent to ensure U.S. citizens always have a vehicle to express themselves, not to incite violence.
Furthermore, a respectful conversation contributes to understanding multiple perspectives, working towards specific solutions that satisfy all groups in question; students and administrators alike.
Thus, we must first find a point of agreement: free speech is significant enough to discuss, and work towards an amicable solution for.
At this very moment, college and university campuses are experiencing an alarming shift away from this willingness to engage in virulent, yet respectful, disagreement.
The Los Angeles Times is only one of many outlets that has decried recent violence by “Antifa” against peaceful assemblers at University of California, Berkeley. Such public shaming is necessary to encourage the development of a society that values rational discourse.
Even at schools where free speech is not under imminent, physical attack, we must remain vigilant and safeguard our right to free expression.
In the past 15 years at Citrus College, the school has conceded two court cases in which students claimed active free speech suppression by policies in place.
Chris Stevens, in 2003, was only allowed extra credit on an assignment by his professor if he wrote a letter to public officials from the professor’s political viewpoint.
Again in 2014, Young Americans for Liberty club president, Vinny Sinapi-Riddle, sued the school and won after being threatened with removal from the campus for stepping outside of the designated “free speech zone”.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education was involved in both lawsuits and argued that such designated areas are unconstitutional. Similarly, they have successfully helped litigate dozens of similar cases around the country.
We as a student body must hold our administrators responsible when attempts are made to stifle our human rights. Reach out to the Clarion and understand that you have resources available that exist to protect you.
Encourage a culture of free expression by open-mindedly engaging in a challenging yet healthy discussion with someone you disagree with. Remember always to remain respectful.