The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.
@TheChrony

Be not your opposite

By Pat Shea (Guest Columnist)

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

-The First Amendment of the United States Constitution

The beauty of free speech is that it allows each of us to explore, experience and decide for ourselves what we personally do and do not believe.

Last week, I read about members of the U community petitioning to stop Larry H. Miller from speaking on campus. I certainly understand the emotions behind the petition drive, arising from Miller’s unwillingness to allow the Academy Award-winning film “Brokeback Mountain” to be viewed at his theaters.

The type of intolerance displayed by Miller is to be discouraged. However, I strongly believe the means of changing people’s attitudes is not to become as they are, but to remain steadfast, yet open, in our own beliefs. If we allow ourselves to be swept by emotions, to seek the silencing of someone else’s speech because we don’t like the ideas being expressed, we have become as intolerant as they are.

In 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War protest, then-Vice President Hubert Humphrey was invited to speak at my college. There were members of the university community who sought to silence the vice president’s speech on Vietnam-a situation very similar to the one that students at the U’s campus find themselves in today.

Throughout America’s history, we have benefited from a robust, diverse, free market of ideas. The tradition of free speech and the resulting thought have been particularly fostered at institutions of higher education such as the U.

In the case of the vice president visiting my campus, there were fortunately a few creative souls who suggested two specific actions that allowed him to speak, but dramatically registered audience members’ protest.

First, black arm bans were distributed to everyone who wished to protest. Second, those in protest did not applaud or cheer during any portion of the vice president’s lecture.

I attended the vice president’s speech and later had the opportunity to speak with him about the protest. He said that seeing the armbands of protest and experiencing the silence of the audience’s protest had a significant impact on his thinking.

Being as you are is better than becoming like someone whose ideas or actions you find objectionable. I hope petitioners will think creatively as to how Miller’s presence on campus can provide a constructive opportunity to promote tolerance of our diversity and a new chance to reaffirm the U community’s dedication to free speech.

Be creative in ways to show that Miller’s intolerance is not part of the norm you are part of at the U-but maintain your commitment to an open forum at the same time.

[email protected]

Editor’s Note: Pat Shea attended Dilworth Elementary, Hillside Junior High, Highland High, the University of Utah, Stanford University, Oxford University and Harvard University. He said he learned the most as a caddy at the Salt Lake Country Club.

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