Free speech is imperative to college students

By
November 20, 2003

“Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech,
or of the press.” These rights, granted every citizen by the First
Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, are vital to free societies,
and should be even more valued on college campuses, where students
must be free to voice their own opinions in order to learn.

Certain types of speech are not protected; libel, obscenity, and
“fighting words,” defined by the Supreme Court as “personally
abusive epithets which, when addressed to the ordinary citizen,
are, as a matter of common knowledge, inherently likely to provoke
violent reactions” and must be directed at a specific individual in
a face-to-face confrontation.

None of the letters regarding men on campus recently printed in
The Weekly would meet these criteria.

We, along with others in the Mills community, are concerned that
President Holmgren’s letter in our last issue implies that the
Honor Code holds us to higher standards that should limit our free
expression. Colleges should enlighten and educate through open
debate and study. How much can we learn without the ability to add
our own feedback to the commentary?

Deterring students from voicing their opinions does not stop the
opinions from existing, but keeps them hidden where they cannot be
addressed.

By allowing student voices to be heard, issues lying below the
surface have been brought into the open, allowing for more
productive efforts to resolve the matters.

We applaud the administration for organizing a forum around the
issues of sexism which have been raised by students, and hope that
part of the focus is reminding everyone that restricting the speech
of any one person or group would threaten everyone’s right to free
speech. All speech deserves the same constitutional protection,
regardless of personal opinion.

Freedom of speech is what allows us each our own identity-it’s
the communication of ourselves to the world, whoever we’ve decided
to be, and the ability to agree or disagree with what others say.
This creates the endless possibilities for change, for discussions
that can lead to a better world for everyone.

It is everyone’s responsibility to protect the speech you hate
the most, in order to continue enjoying the ability to speak in
support of what you most believe in. Appreciate that we can choose
to listen or not to listen, to read or not to read, to respond or
not to respond, but only because we have the First Amendment.

The Weekly serves as a voice for the entire Mills
community. It is not our right to decide the appropriateness of
speech that is clearly protected by the First Amendment. Whether
popular or unpopular, every voice that chooses to be heard is
welcome on our pages.


Free speech is imperative to college students was published on November 20, 2003 in Editorial

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