Free speech zones spark discussions

Kyndal Reimer

There has been an ongoing battle between the Government of Student Body and the Young Americans for Liberty organization regarding the constitutional foundation in the rules surrounding the free speech zones on campus.

There was a Daily editorial article this past October regarding the unfair nature of the Free Speech Zones. In response to that, Government of Student Body senator Raghul Ethiraj wrote a letter addressing the issues and explaining why they didn’t support the expansion of the zones.

“The biggest concern for the senators present was not that of expanding the free speech zones, but the implications in doing so and how it might affect the student experience on campus.” Ethiraj said.

He went on to explain how the safety and experience of the student body is the most important issue.

To combat this letter and the university’s rules, the Young Americans for Liberty organized a demonstration Thursday near the overhang of Parks Library from noon to 4 p.m. The group had a free speech wall on which passersby could write notes, such as quotes from the Constitution or other forms of support for their cause. Additionally, the group had a petition for expanding the free speech zone to include the entire campus.

“Less than 1 percent of campus is open for students to exercise their rights to free speech,” said Austin Dzik, president of the Young Americans for Liberty and sophomore in mechanical engineering. “It’s our First Amendment right to express ourselves freely, yet the university has chosen to limit that freedom.”

Those who desire to use one of the two free speech zones on campus must go through an approval process. Requests should be made at least four days in advance, and if groups or speakers don’t meet the criteria set in place by the university, they can be denied use of the zone.

Ethiraj said in his letter that we need not fix something that isn’t broken.

But Dzik challenged this. 

“Free speech zones are taken to court all the time, however, they never win,” Dzik said. “These rules are taking away our rights as American citizens. That in itself is an indication that there is something broken about the way that the university handles free speech.” 

The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise there of; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”