Introducing FIRE Summer Intern Daniel Chapman

By June 21, 2013

Daniel Chapman is a rising senior at Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan. A sociology major with minors in management and psychology, he has spent his academic career advocating for student and political interests. Daniel serves as secretary of both the Sociology Club and the campus chapter of Amnesty International. In addition, he currently serves as the Legislative Research Committee Chair for the Student Association of Michigan, a group representing over 300,000 students enrolled in the state’s 15 public universities. A long-time member of the SVSU Student Association, he has served as the student representative on several university curriculum committees and is currently slated for confirmation as the Student Association’s Parliamentarian later this summer. On his decision to intern at FIRE this summer, Daniel writes: Coming home after my first year of college and enjoying the comforts of my old friends and family brought me to the realization that one year in a university had done more for me than all of my K–12 schooling had. The experience had broadened my horizons and undoubtedly changed me as a person, for which I am thankful.My experiences at SVSU taught me the real value of education. In my sophomore year I wanted to do what I could to help enrich the experience for myself as well as my fellow students. I became a member of the Student Association and pursued various reforms in an effort to improve the university experience through improving the student government. Almost immediately after joining, however, I came to realize that the threats to education, as well as the sources of its value, are much more numerous, potent, and powerful than student government.I learned about the student debt crisis, skyrocketing tuition, and declining government support for education. Yet all these problems are fundamentally problems of accessibility rather than quality. Eventually I became focused on the issue of quality in education, and doing so required taking stock of what made the college experience so valuable. I firmly believe that freedom of speech and the free exchange of ideas are preconditions for any education of worth. This view is tragically underrepresented among the ranks of college administrators, government bureaucrats, and university counsel. Universities regularly engage in an accounting of values where free expression, diversity, and social justice are seen as competing interests. This all too often results in a climate in which campus speech ends where sensibilities begin. Unbridled free exchange of ideas is what sets higher education as a world apart from K–12, and unchallenged limits on speech will obliterate any distinction between the two systems. As Mark Twain once said, “I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.” I believe there can be just as much value in debate in the halls, posters on the walls, and discussion stretching through the night as there is within the walls of the classroom. Policies which serve to suppress free exchange among students and faculty are a detriment to the quality of education and a recipe for disaster in larger society.After being exposed to FIRE, I came to realize that university administration and the government pose both the greatest threat and the best hope for protecting and promoting free expression on campus. Over the years, FIRE has kept vigil as administrators and government entities alike enact policies which serve to outlaw the very types of speech that helped to mold me into who I am today. Despite an abundance of censorship, there are not enough cases where speech is defended. FIRE is one of the few organizations working to address these intrusions into free speech and I’m glad to join them in the fight for liberty on campus.  Welcome, Daniel! This is the final entry in our series introducing the 2013 FIRE interns, but certainly not the last you will be hearing from them. Check back on The Torch for more of their writing this summer!