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The controversy of free speech at DU

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The controversy of free speech at DU

  1. 1. The University of Denver has a lot of history when it has come to students expressing their First Amendment right to free speech, and not all opinions have been welcome on campus.
  2. 2. Students today can use the Free Speech Wall to voice their opinions on various issues. Any DU community member has the ability to paint a statement, promote a club event, and more on one of the designated walls outside of the Driscoll Center.
  3. 3. However, in the Fall quarter of 2016, one student faced repercussions for writing song lyrics that were meant to prompt a discussion among members of the DU community. DU does offer additional options for students to exercise their free speech right on campus such as through The Clarion, club discussions, and through social media.
  4. 4. “I was responding to this email from t h e U n d e r g r a d u a t e S t u d e n t Government stating how appalled they were about a previous message written on the wall.” “I was trying to make the point that it is the duty of all of us to work to diminish racism.” “I believed that they conveyed that not one single race is to blame for racism. That message was not intended to be harmful.” “I tried to use song lyrics in order to separate the statement with a f f i l i a t i o n t o a ny k i n d o f movement or organization.”
  5. 5. “I was shocked to hear that other people felt threatened by the message, because I didn’t intend for anyone to feel like they were being targeted.” “I went to go write a new message to say that the lyrics weren’t a threat and to explain my original point in a clearer way, but I was stopped before I could.” A formal investigation was conducted according to University policy by The Office of Equal Opportunity after a complaint was filed against the student for writing the lyrics. The student was found not to be in violation of the Honor Code. “If someone is given the platform for free speech, then you shouldn’t be punished for saying anything on there. I’m sorry if anyone interpreted my message as a threat, but I didn’t write the lyrics to target anyone on campus. This whole situation has been a focus on the issue of the language that I used instead of the issue that I was writing about.”
  6. 6. After messages that were interpreted as being racist were painted on the wall and several physical confrontations, the Undergraduate Student Government placed a camera and new rules on the Free Speech Wall. The camera is recording around the clock but it is not live-monitored. The tape is reviewable should a complaint arise.
  7. 7. “I think if you’re given the opportunity to speak your mind, you need to take responsibility for what you say. You can’t have this anonymity when it’s a statement that people can use in a way that is hurtful towards others.” “The purpose of free speech is to let everyone have their opinion and have their ideas heard. By refusing to take responsibility, it doesn’t fall into free speech and the statement can turn into hate speech easily.” Carys Helm, a sophomore studying Accounting at DU, thinks that students should stand by their opinion when writing on the Free Speech Wall.
  8. 8. In order to extend the conversation of controversial issues beyond the Wall, DU has hosted several events where students are encouraged to express their opinion. The University also offers classes for faculty members to engage in when it comes to controversial topics being discussed in a classroom environment. Only a small number of teachers dedicate their time to going to theseclasses. As small as 15 Professors to As large as 65 Professors attend one of these classes on average.
  9. 9. The media uses the right of free speech to report the news, but they do have a guideline for doing their job. It’s called the ethics of journalism, and there are certain things that journalists have to do and say. They must always tell the truth and be as accurate and as unbiased as possible. Other places besides the University of Denver advocate for the use of free speech and for diversity and inclusion. S o m e o f t h e s e a r e organizations that have restrictions on using the First Amendment while o t h e r s u s e i t f o r expressing their opinion.
  10. 10. Physical expression is just one popular form of free speech that Americans use. People can dress up as a way to express their political beliefs as well as express their opinion about social rights or to spread knowledge about a cause happening in another country. They don’t usually mesh with a group or shout phrases, instead they use their appearance to explain their purpose.
  11. 11. Protests are held around the country on a daily basis. While sometimes there is an organizational meeting before a protest explaining what to do if you get arrested, most often people just show up with signs and stand on public property. If they ever step on private property, police intervene.
  12. 12. The University of Denver has had a lot of protests, but only one has ever caught the attention of national media. In 1970, DU students attempted to protest the University’s decision to stay open after the events of the Kent State Massacre. The students lived in a makeshift village for several days, calling it ‘Woodstock West’ until The National Guard was called in to disperse the protest. “I don’t think The National Guard was called in to necessarily restore the campus, but rather to ‘save face’ for the Chancellor.” Sheila Schroeder, a DU professor, said. “The University did some things back then that I would say worked counter to free speech. At the same time, at the center of Woodstock West, there was a stage with a microphone, and all were invited to get up and express themselves.” “The University is a place that brings together a variety of perspectives and ideas.” Theresa Ahrens, the Interim Communications Director at DU, declared. “We do want there to be discourse and that people can talk about different things, but always in a respectful manner.”

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