Freedom of expression on college campuses

By: Sabrina Storms

Walking through campus early Monday morning trying to get to class on time while slowly sipping mildly hot coffee when a man waving a confederate flag on the corner of the sidewalk starts yelling about racial issues. It is the one, the only, St. Cloud Superman.

Freedom of expression is necessary on college campuses because it encourages creativity and it is a 1st amendment right. Students, and citizens should not lose their rights when they walk onto a college campus.

The classic red and blue symbol of superman has its own connotations in St. Cloud Minnesota. Exercising his right of freedom of expression for many years, St. Cloud Superman has been standing on sidewalk corners and on the SCSU campus.

Being a freshman here at SCSU I have seen St. Cloud superman and his antics first hand. Coming from Stillwater, Minnesota where race was rarely an issue to being thrown onto a college campus in St Cloud where race is an issue was a bit of a shock.

My cultural literacy quickly grew as I learned of the racial conflict through out St. Cloud. I learned the most through the people around campus. As St. Cloud superman stood out on the Atwood mall the campus buzzed about his intentions and actions.

If SCSU did not give students and other people on campus the freedom to express themselves none of this would have happened. St. Cloud Superman would than not be allowed on campus. It is this freedom that SCSU allows students to keep when they walk onto campus that gives students and individuals the right to voice their own opinions and be heard by the student body, staff, and citizens of St. Cloud.

The first amendment affects everyone in the United States; it gives citizens the right to free speech, the freedom to assemble, and much more. These rights should not be taken from students, or anyone else, when they walk onto a college campus.

The SCSU student handbook said, “Minnesota State Colleges and Universities will give due consideration to an individual’s constitutionally protected right to free speech and academic freedom. However, discrimination and harassment are not within the protections of academic freedom or free speech.”

Free speech zones are common on college campuses. The schools use this regulation as a way to contain the free speech into a smaller and more controlled area. At St. Cloud State University this area is located outside of Atwood, the student union.

The Washington Post said, “Colleges fear those who demand censorship more than they fear those who demand they follow the Constitution and their own written policies.”

Censorship on college campuses gives students the message that their opinions are less important than the public image of the school itself. Though the constitution protects citizens and the right of free speech; those rights are still limited. Speech such as hate speech is not protected. This is the gray zone of free speech. It has been debated for many years what should and should not be protected with those rights.

American Civil Liberties Union said, “Speech codes adopted by government-financed state colleges and universities amount to government censorship, in violation of the Constitution.”

As colleges and universities around the nation develop speech codes and policies limiting free speech they are in turn limiting the students creativity and education.

Robert Shibley of the Washington Post said, “Thanks to the continuing menace of campus speech codes—rules restricting what students may say and where they may say it—these sorts of offenses happen every day on our nation’s college and university campuses.”

SCSU is a public university that allows students to exercise their right to freedom of expression on campus. Many other college campuses around the nation are limiting students’ freedom of speech while on campus. Shibley describes two examples of the censorship at Ohio University and Iowa State University where students were punished for wearing t-shirts promoting weed legalization and with obscene jokes.

Freedom of expression should not be allowed because it can distract from students learning and it can sacrifice the safety of both staff and students.

St. Cloud Superman has threatened students’ safety while on campus as he and a student engaged in a verbal altercation. It caused ruckus on campus as a crowd began to watch and engage the man. This incident distracted students from their learning while on campus.

Elliot Hirshman of the Huffington Post said, “It is critical to present a range of perspectives so students can understand issues and develop frameworks for thinking about these issues.”

Freedom of expression and the freedom of speech are important aspects of the college experience. College is that time of life that students are finding themselves and deciding their beliefs and opinions. It is crucial that students are allowed to express these opinions.

Receiving a college education myself, I have learned that it is much different than high school in the way that students are expected to think and learn. In high school students, for the most part are told what to think. In college on the other hand students are required to think for themselves. It is extremely helpful to have a safe environment for the students to share these thoughts. Freedom of speech and expression on campuses gives students this safety.

Freedom of expression is necessary on college campuses because it encourages creativity and thought. The first amendment of the constitution gives citizens the right to freedom of speech.




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