Free speech should be free

Jake Tapley

Ever since I came to USI, I have had trouble with the notion of a free speech zone.

Sure, I appreciate  the university caring enough about student interests to designate an area for personal expression, and I recognize its efforts in maintaining a security presence to help regulate and keep order.

But I feel we are still being denied on a fundamental level.

In the fall semester, when a couple of religious extremists occupied the free speech zone for several days, drawing a crowd and stirring up a bit of controversy, USI kept security on-site until the situation resolved.

I commend the university for operating with awareness and dedication in times like these.

However, I can’t help but think  this isolated incident could have been avoided and the effort could have been better spent elsewhere had there not been a free speech zone in the first place.

In theory, what a free speech zone is supposed to do is minimize damages by limiting accessibility of expression.

On USI’s campus, these limitations exist within the grass between the Orr Center and the University Center East.

However, what it ultimately ends up doing is taking the damages and concentrating (or, in some cases, exploiting) them.

Think about it.

If the evangelists last year had the opportunity of speaking their minds anywhere on campus, they wouldn’t have garnered as prominent of a following.

But it’s not even about making things easier for the university. What it really comes down to is making things ideal for the students.

This means freedom of speech should be treated the way it is treated anywhere else – as a normal part of daily life – with consideration and attention.

Don’t make it out to be some special ability reserved for some special occasion. There doesn’t even need to be an occasion.

That’s kind of the point.

When we realize that people will say what they say and do what they do, we will start to care a little less. We will move forward.