The Chronicle’s View: Free-speech study is all smoke and no FIRE

One thing you’ll hardly ever find on The Chronicle’s Opinion page is a complaint from a student about his or her ability to speak freely on campus. After all, the existence of such a letter would provide decisive proof against its intended purpose.

The U allows students ample opportunity to voice their concerns on any issue they choose, so long as they do so responsibly, without infringing upon the personal rights of others. Despite that reality, today’s Chronicle reports a study calling our individual sovereignty into question.

So, what gives, exactly?

The study, issued by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE, conveniently, for short) accuses the U of limiting students’ abilities to exercise free speech, which–as the study explains in great detail and with greater vigor–is guaranteed as part of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Rabble, rabble. And so on.

Two-hundred twenty-nine schools received this ridiculous FIRE flagging, while only eight garnered “green lights” for their policies in this oppressive, despotic land we call America.

The truth is, the policy that got Utah “red flagged” is rarely applied, and actually probably does more to bolster the individual rights of students. The U’s rules prohibiting “hate speech” may be “by the letter of the law” unconstitutional, but it’s hardly in students’ best interests to have anybody fight on this account.

Want to scream and shout? The U has a designated free speech area on campus where you can do that. It’s centrally located (to the south of the Union), and you even get complimentary seats and refreshments at your exposition. Just don’t explicitly threaten anybody, and you won’t be asked to move.

Particularly in the case of students living in the dorms, students ought to enjoy the right to privacy. Imagine coming here from another country and having to endure protests or taunts after a long day of class. Everyone’s a stranger at the Residence Halls. Often, offending students are unaware of the origins and backgrounds of those around them, and that can have dangerous consequences.

Creating a friendly atmosphere for all to enjoy goes a long way toward aiding students in both personal and academic endeavors. We’re all entitled to a safe, secure place to rest our heads, physically and emotionally.

The U’s policy is intended to ensure that such a place exists on campus, and it hasn’t led to any significant conflicts when implemented in the past. In most cases, it seems that students meet with administrators and discuss other courses of action and alternative ways of thinking before leaving on amicable terms without any punitive measures being taken.

That’s not so horribly restrictive, is it?

Such studies blatantly designed to attract attention often carry little merit. It is our duty as responsible students to sift through news and information carefully, considering the true weight of the accusations or implications before indicting an institution.

The U’s administration draws a lot of flak on these pages about various policies, but it doesn’t challenge our right to exist. There are no political motives or mandates coming from above here, and students shouldn’t be anything but thankful for the freedoms they enjoy at the U.