A panel of IU students and faculty across the political spectrum debated free speech and what the limits should be Thursday evening at “How Free Should Speech Be at IU.”
Sandra Shapshay, director of the Political and Civic Engagement Program at IU, moderated the panel. She said PACE intends to create a space for honest, open and respectful dialogue about important issues on campus.
“I am proud that my colleagues in PACE, the co-organizers of the event, Maria Heslin and Carl Weinberg, gathered together a very diverse range of ideological perspectives, from SASV to the Young Americans for Liberty and various shades of red and blue in between,” she said.
Shapshay said although this event was planned before anyone knew was coming to speak at IU, the discussion came at a prime time.
After the recent presidential election, people with a variety of differing opinions have experienced a political polarization, she said.
For example, conservative students are worried about expressing their views without being given a negative label, she said.
Melissa Logan, a member of the Black Law Student Association, said she wanted to emphasize the government’s role in free speech.
She said some people seem to think of free speech as an absolute right, but it is not.
Although the lines of regulation are blurry, there are certain conditions, such as inciting violence, that are prohibited speech, she said.
Logan said because campus is an academic environment, it should be able to prohibit speeches, such as Tuesday night’s speech by Charles Murray, that could keep students from learning.
She said discrimination is not something that should be part of anyone’s academic life.
“As a woman of color, as a law student, there have been comments that devalue my life, my right to be in law school,” Logan said.
Sophomore Reagan Kurk, chairwoman of the College Republicans at IU, said she has also experienced judgement that could have potentially discouraged her from continuing her academic career.
“I have been told that my Sarah Palin look says everything you need to know about my inherently white-only attitude,” Kurk said.
She said everyone has experienced discrimination in some way, but it should not discourage or stop them.
Junior Terry Tossman, president of College Democrats at IU, said after seeing swastikas and the letters KKK on campus he felt it was deplorable and something that should not be supported as a form of free speech.
“Although those people associate with the KKK and associate a lot of their values with the KKK, they’re not inherently racist, right?” he said. “Wrong.”
Media School student junior Taylor Acton said free speech should come with discussion, and it should not only be opinions.
She said people should be open to listening to others’ thoughts, so they are able to learn, rather than continue to make assumptions.
“We do need to be exposed to controversial viewpoints because these issues are not black and white,” Acton said.
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