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.
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.
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.
“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
“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.”
“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
“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
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.
“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
“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
DU, thinks that
stand by their
writing on the
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
Only a small number of
teachers dedicate their
time to going to theseclasses.
As small as 15 Professors
As large as 65 Professors
attend one of these classes on
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.
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.
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.
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
“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.”