Protestors at Brown University use controversial tactics
A recent political protest on the Brown University campus has tested campus free speech in an unusual way.
Typically, when issues of freedom of expression arise on college campuses, it is the speech of students that is limited. Tactics such as free-speech zones and institutional rhetoric are used to limit the free expression of individuals. However, in a recent event just the opposite has been the case.
Police chief silenced
In New York City, the infamous "Stop and Frisk" law has been drawing a lot of flack as of late because many believe that the legislation is racially motivated and a violation of people's right to privacy. Many have grown critical of the policy as of late, but in order to promote the balance of opinions on campus, Brown University invited the NYC Police Commissioner, Ray Kelly, to speak about the law on campus.
According to USA Today, students asked that the event be canceled, but the administration did not satisfy these requests. Instead, students gathered and exercised their right to free speech by not allowing Kelly to speak. The Chronicle of Higher Education noted that the university is investigating the case and considering if these students who participated should be brought through the established processes for violating the student code of conduct.
The committee responsible for the investigation is expected to help improve measures that can support student opinions while promoting the free exchange of ideas.
Promoting diversity of view points
The USA Today story, an opinion piece, argues that instead of sticking up for the rights of speaking out against social injustice, the protest actually limited the rights of others to express their views on certain topics. While one of the organizing students claimed it was a demonstration of free speech, the writer, Patrick Maines of the Media Institute said it was quite the opposite.
"What the students did at Brown," he writes, "was a 'powerful demonstration of free speech' in the same way that mugging someone is a powerful demonstration of free will."
He explained that while the students are entitled to their opinions they should not come at the expense of others losing theirs. Because Brown is a typically liberal university, some students may have felt that favoritism was shown towards a single view point.
This was also the case at Fordham University where the school's group of Young Republicans were pressured to not let Ann Coulter, a prominent conservative, to speak. These recent actions should lead to more thought about how some opinions may be favored over others in academia.