Former FIRE Intern Pens ‘A Case for Free Speech’ at Rutgers

By April 20, 2012

In his column for the The Daily Targum this semester, former FIRE intern and Rutgers University senior Alex Lewis has written two articles making "A case for free speech" at Rutgers. In the first article, published last month, Alex wrote about the philosophy of free speech and why it is important not to censor speech, even if some find it offensive: 

The government of our country has been humble enough to presume that no ideological stripe, or theory, or school or dogma is inherently "better" or "more right" than any other. The only ethic the First Amendment embraces is that of a constant and abiding pluralism. Of course, the way that our country looks and functions today reflects a whole bunch of philosophies that won out over others. But at the most base level, we require ideas to win or lose based on their merit, on the free marketplace of speech.

We pay an uncomfortable price to embrace this principle: We have to protect everyone’s rights, including those who say things that offend, infuriate or contradict us. And everyone means everyone – the offensive, the biased and, yes, even those mouthbreathers in Tinsley Hall. 

Although I doubt they are the Tinsley Hall "mouthbreathers" in question, some Rutgers student journalists who run another campus publication, The Medium, are currently facing scrutiny for their satirical speech. They are under investigation for publishing an article mocking a Daily Targum columnist in The Medium‘s annual April Fool’s day issue. This week, Alex revisited the subject of free speech on campus in light of the recent controversy: 

Most students don’t seem to be aware of this basic fact: "biased" statements – in and of themselves or when produced in satire – are not criminal. They are not separable offenses under the University Code of Student Conduct. McCormick and President-Designee Robert Barchi should be aware that disciplinary action against The Medium would constitute a violation of the First Amendment. They should also be aware that liberty-loving observers on campus are ready to blow the whistle if they censor a legal act of satire. (Emphasis added.)

Thanks for putting them on notice, Alex! 

Schools: Rutgers University – New Brunswick