By Luke Morgan
For the two years that I’ve been a student at Eastern, I’ve been exposed to many forms of expression, ideas and some things so exotic they still seem untrue.That’s the nature of a college campus, and Eastern does a very good job of providing a great cultural experience for the student body.
The trick, though, is finding the opportunities that might not always be instantly visible to the average person.
One particular policy at Eastern has flown under the radar of the majority of the student body; free speech zones.
These free speech zones limit the freedom of protesting, assembling and expressing any sort of speech to designated spots on campus.
In my view and in the views of others, this policy represents a violation of freedom to express views, opinions, thoughts and facts.
All over the world, individuals in a variety of societies struggle with such issues. Iranians found this to be true when their summer election protests were stifled by their government.
Election crises and large-scale government repressions of expression are not problems in America; at least not on a broad scale. But that does not diminish freedom of expression issues in America wherever they might occur.
I would argue that most Americans (myself included) take for granted that we can say many things without fear of arrest or attempts to repress our publicly-expressed views.
Therefore, having free speech zones on a publicly-funded college campus in America, where such freedoms of expression are the envy of the world, has little logic.
The bottom line? A policy like the one in question limits the intellectual and cultural scope that a growing university can provide.
Eastern has set aside three zones for freedom of speech: Powell Corner, Powell Plaza and the Ravine. These are good areas for expression, but only allow a fraction of open expression on a good-sized campus.
Worse still, all events or public expressions require approval from the Office of Student Life a full three days in advance of the event. If the colonial Americans who participated in the Boston Tea Party had to get three days advanced permission to protest, who knows what might have happened in history.
This isn’t the first time Eastern has struggled with expression issues.
Eastern’s posting policy was recently changed, making it easier for campus groups and individuals to hang fliers virtually all over campus.
That was a great victory that took half a decade of work between students, faculty, staff and administration in countless meetings and committees to finally accomplish.
Despite this victory, the effort for complete free speech on campus continues, as one former student reflected in the Progress last week.
I do not pretend to have the magic solution, but I and many other students do know what a limitation to freedom of expression looks like.
I urge all students and faculty to consider this issue. Student Government Association needs to take a good, hard look at it, too.
I love Eastern and take pride in the various ideas and viewpoints it has presented to me over the past two years. I’m not accusing the university of limiting expression, but this policy is a problem.
Eastern’s diversity survey and annual interfaith breakfast last week showed the university is committed to expression, but it must open that expression further by doing away with free speech zoning.