Tuesday, January 29, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 81


 
 









 

Free speech zones limit free speech

Kristin Buchanan

"I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

Voltaire

There are few issues these days that the student body has enough interest in to protest, or react to at all.

Last March, Justice For Life managed to tap into the student body and find a pulse. The organization, in conjunction with Pro-Life Cougars and
the Free Speech Coalition, erected a controversial exhibit that caused many students unease.

The exhibit, conveniently placed on Butler Plaza in front of the M.D. Anderson Memorial Library, featured graphic pictures of aborted fetuses and
information on abortion.

Some students were offended by the display, which could be viewed on the way to and from lunch at the University Center. In protest, one
student brought his guitar and sang impromptu hippie campfire songs, while others held up signs that read, "Right to Lunch."

While the exhibit sparked much protest from students who felt strongly about the issue, many were irked simply because the heart of the
controversy was in their pathway. While there was some debate, no violence broke out during the few days Justice For Life was here. No one
threw a fist, and there was no destruction of public property.

Justice For Life packed up the display and left quietly after a few days. 

Despite lack of any true disruption of student life, administrators refused to let the group show the display at Butler Plaza last fall, offering instead
the low-key Lynn Eusan Park or the University Center Patio. This was unacceptable to the group because the cost of building the display and
traveling would have been unjustified if the exhibit were displayed on a site with less student traffic.

Instead of allowing the group to be where it was last March and cause only a few waves, administrators enabled Pro-Life Cougars to make a
huge splash with a lawsuit contending a violation of the First Amendment.

UH generously offered to discuss a "free speech zone" to display the exhibit. 

Isn't "free speech zone" a contradiction in terms? If UH limits the locations where students and organizations can practice free speech, then that
speech has been limited and is no longer free.

The truth is: We live in a pseudo-politically correct society that is so pathetically concerned about not offending others that we've placed a gag
order on those with "offensive" viewpoints.

Buchanan, a senior journalism major, can be reached at 

wheresthecoffee@yahoo.com.


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