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Friday, April 12, 2024

Editorial: Freedom of expression

Among college students, the Bill of Rights has found its place in popular culture — like Second Amendment puns about arming bears and memorizations of the Miranda rights from countless episodes of crime TV shows.

But this October, the First Amendment should be the one on everyone’s lips: the right to free speech. If any of you check your email as manically as we do at The Aggie, you’ll have read (or at least noticed) the Oct. 4 email from Provost Ralph Hexter titled “UC Davis Freedom of Expression Draft Policy: Open Forums and Ways to Engage.”

The announcement concerns the Blue Ribbon Committee for Freedom of Expression, a group created in April 2013 by UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi. The group’s inception was spurred by a report from the Academic Senate’s Freedom of Expression Committee addressing “Freedom of Speech and Protest Policies.”

The committee, made up of representatives from multiple groups on campus (such as the UC Davis police chief and ASUCD President Carly Sandstrom), is drafting a policy regarding freedom of expression at the university — and it needs your help. There will be four forums for discussion, as well as a call for written feedback via a web survey.

So why should you care? Consider recent incidents at other universities where free speech has been infringed upon. On Sept. 25, student activists at Modesto Junior College, Madison Area Technical College and the College of Central Florida were banned from handing out U.S. Constitutions on their campuses. Six days before that, a University of Cincinnati student was threatened by arrest and prevented from gathering signatures for an Ohio ballot initiative outside of the school’s designated “free speech zone.” He sued — and won.

If you don’t want these types of transgressions on your rights at UC Davis, speak up. Show up to the forums and take the opportunity to try and change any policies you feel doubtful about — perhaps from “Section III: Time, Place, and Manner Regulations,” which establishes that expression can only be exercised if it doesn’t interfere with “University operations.” (We know some student activists might especially take interest in point D5: “No person on University property or at official University functions may use university properties for overnight camping”).

The first forum is from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 14 in the Student Community Center Multipurpose Room, with three others following it in the subsequent weeks. If you can’t make it to the meetings, fill out the online survey, which can be accessed through the Provost’s email.

Rather than complaining retroactively, take the chance to make a change right now. Make your voice heard, be proactive and take advantage of your rights. If you don’t speak up for yourself, someone else will. And you might not like what they have to say.

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