FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) has given Keene State College the speech code rating of red. According to the FIRE webpage, the red light signifies that our college has at least one policy that “both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech.”
An article on the FIRE website by Shelby Emmett posted on Feb. 4, stated, “For example, at KSC students are permitted to engage in free speech activities only on the Student Center Lawn and inside the Young Student Center Atrium and only when scheduled in advance.” This is a clear violation of the First Amendment.
As paying students of this institution, we should not stand for these types of restrictions. Just because we applied to KSC and decided to get our educations here does not mean that we signed our constitutional rights away. In a way, we are glad that this red light was brought to our attention; it’s a good thing FIRE called the college out on this restriction. As a liberal arts college, we believe our school should be based on an exchange of ideas. Everyone should be able to organize. After all, isn’t that our rights as citizens of the United States?
We ask that administration stop running this college like a corporation instead of a public institution. What difference does it make if we engage in free speech on a different part of campus other than the student center? It seems as though these types of restrictions are trying to put the school above the law. Just because we are students here does not mean that we should be a slave to the college’s ideologies. The fact that we are expected to schedule something in advance just to speak our minds is unreasonable to us. The Equinox wants to express our frustrations about these rules and regulations.
We support and believe in being the voice of the people. We don’t believe this is logical way for us as students to live our lives here. Restricting speech to one public space and denying it in other public spaces is not right by any means. The same article written by Emmett talked about UNH and their free speech violations as well. She writes, “Prior restraint on student expression is wrong and presumptively unconstitutional at public institutions like UNH and KSC. Worse, these policies limit students’ ability to quickly respond to recent events or to speech with which they disagree.”
Ultimately, our policy here at KSC is unfair and not a realistic policy to abide by. To control what students say and control when and where they say it is infringing upon our rights to freedom of speech.
It is our hope that KSC can soon become a school with a green light. But even the green light may not mean students are entirely safe to say what they please. According to the FIRE webpage, “If a college or university’s policies do not seriously imperil speech, that college or university receives a “green light.” A green light does not indicate that a school actively supports free expression. It simply means that FIRE is not currently aware of any serious threats to students’ free speech rights in the policies on that campus.”
Freedom of speech is not something we as students should have to think twice about. We should be able to rest assured that we can organize freely and speak our minds without any major restrictions by the school.