Right to free speech

April 11, 2012
Filed under Viewpoints

Recently, the Right to Life display was vandalized twice on campus. NKU is no stranger to displays and free speech being interfered with. In 2011, there was a push for speech zones on campus where visitors would have designated spots to go to give announcements, presentations and deliver their messages.

On April 12, 2006, NKU made news when professor Sally Jacobsen led her students to the plaza to rip up the Right to Life display. Then, a disturbance was repeated on April 21, 2010, when crosses in the Right to Life “Cemetery of the Innocents” were again pulled up.

We’re wondering: Where does this culture of intolerance come from? The way the offenders seem to operate is: If we don’t like your message, we’ll just mess with your shit. No need to have a dialogue with you to express our beliefs or feelings on it. Let’s just destroy. In that aspect, they fit perfectly with NKU’s sports symbol, the Viking, pillaging and plundering.

However, this doesn’t mesh well with the current culture of acceptance and understanding that is growing across the country. While others fight for the right to marry and there are still constant efforts for equality in areas like race and religion, destroying a display that represents a set of beliefs is taking a step in the wrong direction.
On a more grounded level, these actions violate first amendment rights to free speech and expression without interference.

While abortion is traditionally seen as a hot-button issue, it doesn’t give an excuse to the behavior that has recently taken place. At the risk of sounding like a mother, knee-jerk reactions such as vandalism and confrontation in the form of yelling and/or violence generally don’t yield desired outcomes; rather, can get your ass thrown in jail or fined.

In the event of the professor who led her students to the plaza, it made national news, and the professor resigned. Overall, NKU tries to follow acts of vandalism with serious procedure, but it is the campus culture that needs to change.

Often, students and academics have strong feelings about right and wrong, theory and sets of beliefs. An education is supposed to equip them with the tools to handle differences in a constructive manner rather than purely destructive.

You may not agree with someone’s opinions or beliefs, but you should not try to quell them. In this case, we challenge the campus community to consider this sentiment often credited to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

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Comments

  • Chuck

    The Right to Life display on campus wasn’t an example of intelligent commentary on the abortion issue; instead it replaced any actual viewpoint with a garish display which was apparently meant to inspire guilt within pro choice advocates.

    Such a physical display invites vandalism, especially if students who disagree don’t feel as if they have an opportunity to voice dissent. I ask this: if a pro-Nazi group erected swastikas on the same grounds in an effort to publicly deny the Holocaust, could they expect that display to be vandalized? I say yes. To think otherwise would be naive.

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