Mallika Vinekar is a rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania, majoring in Urban studies with a minor in legal studies and history. At Penn, she has developed an interest in education policy and its intersection with the law. She works as a writing fellow at Penn’s Critical Writing Center, is a member of the Penn Student Government’s Nominations and Elections Committee, and serves as president of Penn Alternate Spring Break. On why she came to FIRE, Mallika writes:
A couple months back, a guest columnist for Penn’s independent student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian, wrote a contentious op-ed describing his experiences with blatant racism on Penn’s campus. He advised prospective students not to attend the school, as anti-minority mentalities at the institution were pervasive. In response, students held a thoughtful protest against racism the next day—one that stirred stimulating debate speculating on the reality of racial tensions at Penn. Rather than silencing the controversial topic, Penn encouraged uninhibited dialogue.
This impressed me.
Such dynamic speech has defined my time as an undergraduate. The most resonating, valuable learning experiences I’ve had at college have been fueled by student voices. My peers have empowered and challenged me through unfettered speech, free exchange of ideas and unconventional convictions. Because free speech has been so central to my education, I have come to FIRE to help ensure that undergraduates throughout the nation can enjoy the same, invaluable right. While in recent years Penn has successfully committed itself to cultivating a community that fosters free speech, I realize that this is not the norm in our country’s higher education system. As I have learned more about unfortunate acts of censorship and the silencing of opposing viewpoints, I have become increasingly interested in how we can mitigate these issues that are so detrimental to learning communities. Higher education institutions breed tomorrow’s leaders, and the failure to guarantee students fundamental rights is a huge disservice to the future of our democratic nation. I am excited to work with FIRE to ensure that students across the country can explore important topics without fear of censorship.