Controversial social scientist Charles Murray spoke in Franklin Hall on Tuesday despite loud protests. Many students and faculty members were insulted IU gave Murray a platform to spread what they believed to be white-supremacist rhetoric.
As an observer who did not attend the event but watched the protests from the Indiana Daily Student offices, I want to commend everyone involved for voicing their opinions non-violently and honestly. IU and its students handled free speech almost perfectly Tuesday.
Let me start with the administration. It is certainly a risk to allow a controversial speaker to give a lecture at the University. With destructive protests at schools like University of California, Berkley and Middlebury College, I understand why a college would be wary of being host to someone with a controversial reputation.
Despite hundreds of faculty members and students urging our administration to shut the event down, Murray was still allowed to speak.
I’m honored to attend a university where the administration will not back down from providing a platform for hotly-debated ideas and their free expression.
Now let’s move on to the protesters. Free speech is not always neat or pretty, and in this case it certainly wasn’t. I heard students chant expletives in unison and a wide array of signs with varying degrees of vulgarity.
I saw a Bloomington local banging a pan with a tire iron while he casually carried on conversation with law enforcement and students. I saw indignant students reading handwritten rants into a megaphone. All of it passionate, all of it non-violent.
The protest was a dull roar marked by a makeshift, off-time drummer from my position in the IDS offices. It was a roar that kept a constant little smile on my face as I finished my shift. This is what freedom of speech sounds like.
We don’t always have to agree about who gets to come to our campus and what ideas we should foster. We often don’t even agree about how free speech should be. But this week I saw an administration stand up for expression and a group of students non-violently, albeit loudly, disagree with the speaker who came to campus.
I know that a lot of police officers were there, but no one was officially arrested throughout the night — most interactions I saw between the cops and the protesters were completely respectful. We had a battle in the arena of ideas Tuesday, and it was an honest one.
Though this week was a step in the right direction for free speech on campus, we can always do more to spread awareness for First Amendment rights.
Young Americans for Liberty and the Libertarian Party at IU, of which I am the president, will roll a free speech ball around campus Monday — if you see it, please come up and write on it.
We can’t fall victim to censorship, and this week has made me deeply, deeply proud to call myself a Hoosier.
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