Free Speech Restrictions are Offensive

By [email protected]

Editor:

We find Bart Gatrell’s letter to the editor questioning the right of gay and lesbian groups to display the rainbow symbol on campus ironic. The Chronicle, in printing his letter, allowed him just that right which he would deny to gays and lesbians: the right to free speech (with which any graduate student in political science should be familiar). Additionally, the same issue contains Craig Froelich’s column, expressing dismay that materials of the neo-Nazi group the National Alliance were taken down before students were able to see them; he writes, “Being a rigid advocate of First Amendment rights, I believe in the National Alliance’s right to have its literature ignored by students.” Ignored, and if one so desired, responded to, much like Mr. Gatrell responded to the rainbow symbols. But Mr. Gatrell went astray when, rather than challenge the meaning of the symbols, he challenged the right of the gay and lesbian community to display them. Is this perhaps because he thought his letter might be better received if it appealed to a growing mainstream disdain for “political correctness,” rather than simply attacking gays and lesbians outright? Or because attacking a symbol that stands for pride and awareness for an oppressed minority is more difficult than attacking a symbol such as the swastika, which reminds most people of hatred that led to the deaths of millions? Comparisons to Nazism, as found in Mr. Gatrell’s letter, are emotion-evoking tactics that serve only to belittle the experiences of Holocaust survivors. Though Mr. Gatrell doubts whether he has the right to self-expression, celebrations of Christianity and heterosexuality are certainly welcome on campus, with the annual Catholic Stations of the Cross and homecoming being just two examples. He can certainly partake of these celebrations without being called a bigot. But when he attacks expressions of pride in homosexuality as “offensive behavior,” should he then be called a bigot? In the interest of free speech, we propose to let the University public decide.

Sara Sanchez and Jessica TavernaGraduate Students, Political Science