While Eastern has a new policy concerning bulletin boards and posting places, the campus is still far from a bastion of free expression.Just this week students were threatened with arrest for protesting Ben Chandler’s visit to campus.
While I personally think their reasons for protesting were downright stupid, I believe in their right to do it, especially on a college campus.
I spent the better portion of my time at Eastern fighting its restrictive and likely unconstitutional policies concerning the freedom of expression (or lack thereof) on campus but I did not get much accomplished.
The Student Government Association first took issue with Eastern’s posting and free speech zone policies more than six years ago and has been unable to affect any real change until this past school year.
That change, however, is relatively small and, to me, a bit disappointing when I look back on how much time was spent on it.
Eastern’s new Posting and Bulletin Board Policy is the result of a repetitive and sometimes bitter dialogue between students, staff, faculty, and administrators about the benefits and “risks” of allowing people to post, without a Student Life stamp, on campus bulletin boards.
This new policy represents a major compromise by the Student Government Association, whose initial draft basically did away with the posting policy altogether, allowing bulletin boards to function like you might imagine bulletin boards to function on a more progressive college campus.
We quickly realized, however, that such an open and simple policy would never make it out of the University’s Facilities Use Ad Hoc Committee, so we began to make the policy more complicated and watered down while we continued to debate the merits of free speech with those who were more concerned with risk aversion and what visiting parents might say if they saw a flyer with a curse word on it.
After literally years of fighting this battle, we arrived at a stopping point in the debate and a compromise with the policy.
With a more sympathetic university president, we were finally able to pass a new policy and at the time, I was ecstatic to have accomplished my goal.I was even more excited to read about it in the Progress.
The excitement has long since worn off and I know that the new policy can barely be called an accomplishment as in the process of writing, rewriting, debating, explaining, and ensuring the passage of this policy we neglected more important goals like ridding the campus of free speech zones or working to make the campus judicial codes something that Eastern might one day call “fair.”
I always thought we would have more time once we passed a new posting policy to move on to those other issues.We didn’t.
Students, it is now your duty to address the issues that remain to be dealt with.
First, I encourage you to take serious issue with Eastern’s free speech zone policy, which limits you to holding rallies, assemblies, protests, etc. in just a few small areas on campus.
Eastern is a public university, and the entire campus should be considered a free speech zone.
You should not have to register to have an anti-abortion or anti-war march through the sidewalks and plazas of your school.
You should not have to fill out paperwork to assemble and speak your minds on a college campus, one of the few places that have always claimed to be a free and open marketplace for ideas.
I encourage you not only to petition the administration and employ Student Government to do away with the policy, but also to treat the policy as one that is unjust.
Ignore it, break it, flaunt it.
I also encourage you to examine the university’s policies concerning harassment because, in addition to other ridiculous things, you can be charged with “engaging in a course of conduct which is intended to harass, seriously annoy, or alarm another person.”
I think the student handbook may still prohibit anyone from “offending the wider community.”
Let’s face it: Offensive and unpopular speech is the only speech that needs protecting.
You should be offended by such policies and should put pressure on your Student Government Association to ensure that they are eliminated.
You may now be able to post on campus bulletin boards without a stamp from the Office of Student Life, but your First Amendment freedoms remain under attack.
Fight for them and don’t allow them to be compromised.