Policy protesters take down sign after use of profanity, damages

September 22, 2011

The ‘Free Speech Wall,’ elected as a form of protest against SHSU’snew social media policy, was taken down after a confrontation between a professor and student event organizers resulted in a section of the sign being cut out, according to police and event officials.

A math professor, whose name has not been confirmed, complained to event organizers that sections of the sign reading "Fuck Obama," and other such terms, were offensive and needed to be removed.

Officials said after a verbal confrontation, the professor returned with a box-cutter and removed the section himself.

University police were then called and collected information before telling event organizers and their faculty adviser, they needed to remove the profanity, according to University Police Chief James Fitch.

Kenneth Hendrickson, SHSU Lovers of Liberty faculty adviser, said the groups were told by police that they had three options: remove the sign, block out the use of the "F-word", or cut out all uses of the"F-word."

Hendrickson said the group ultimately chose to remove the sign because the word was written "all over" the posters. He added that if the group had chosen to cut, or block out, the use of the word, they would have had no room for any more writing.

Therefore, he said, the group chose to completely remove the sign.

The group was told if they had not removed the section, they could be cited for disorderly conduct.

Section 42.01 of the Texas Penal Code states:  "A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly: (1) uses abusive, indecent, profane, or vulgar language in a public place, and the language by its very utterance tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace;"

Fitch said that because the professor was offended by the use of the profanity, that its use qualified it as disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor.

Morgan Freeman, president of SHSU Lovers of Liberty and one of the event organizers said the event had great response from those who attended the event before the sign was taken down.

"A ton of students came out to write on it," Freeman said. "We had a tremendously positive response from most of thestudents."

The groups also passed around a petition to tell the university they "never want the (SHSU Social Media Policy and Procedures Manual)" to go into effect.

Freeman said that about 130 students signed the petition while they were able to get students to sign it.

The SHSU Lovers of Liberty, Bearkat Democrats, College Republicans and the Young Democratic-Socialists organized the event in response to the proposal.

The groups were protesting the proposed SHSU Social Media Policy and Procedures Manual by allowing students to write whatever they wanted on a white sign, which spanned across the entire Lee Drain Building atrium on the second floor.

Officials from the College of Sciences confirmed that the groups were granted permission to protest in that location.  No police report has been filed.

The Houstonian is currently awaiting response from the professor.

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Schools: Sam Houston State University Cases: Sam Houston State University: Faculty Member Takes Box Cutter to Students’ Free Speech Wall; Police Threaten Students with Misdemeanor