NOTE: The article excerpted on this page is from an outside publication and is posted on FIRE's website because it references FIRE's work. The viewpoints expressed in this article do not necessarily represent FIRE's positions.
Tech’s free-speech campus gives students outlet to voice opinions
by Andrew Wood
The Daily Toreador (Texas Tech Univ.)
Global injustice. Gay marriage. War or no war. Spreading the Christian gospel.The free speech area at Texas Tech has been a forum for people to express their views on those topics and many other topics most people might not even know about.
While some events are a peaceful protest, others end up with an atmosphere much like a World Wrestling Entertainment battle royal.
The latest exhibition was an Injustice Wall, placed there by Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, a Tech student organization, earlier this month. The wall included old newspaper articles and fake blood, there to represent what is happening around the globe. It also included phrases and words on controversial topics, including abortion, immigration and the Iraq War.
Austin Mullins, a graduate student from Arlington studying electrical engineering, said the wall lets students see the “big picture,” before taking a spiritual approach. Mullins said he has been pleased with the students’ response.
Tech had limited free speech to six designated areas on campus until a 2004 court case opened the entire campus to free speech, according to the homepage of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, www.thefire.org.
The site reports that U.S. District Judge Samuel R. Cummings found several aspects of Tech’s free speech areas to be “unconstitutional” including the “banning of insults, ridicule and personal attacks” and the policy requiring permission for any sort of political expression.
Although free expression is allowed everywhere on campus, most activity remains with the previously designated area.
Other students, such as Jourdan Wilkerson, a junior advertising major from Arlington, said the free speech area is good for Tech, although students might not agree with what is protested.
“I always walk by, and sometimes I stop,” she said. “I always think there are liberal things over there. It’s not my viewpoint, but students should have a place.”
Some people who have witnessed activity at the free speech area could believe anything can happen under the gazebo.As an attempt to raise money for people in Africa and Asia, the South Asian Student Association stopped at the free speech area for Poverty Week last week.
Members of the organization even abstained from eating while the sun was out. Some could say it was difficult because they fasted during the week after the time change for daylight time.
Not all of the area’s events have been as peaceful. Some organizations go out to the zone in an attempt to raise discussion on campus on topics they do not believe have been talked about very much.
On Nov. 8, the area was a place for Tech employees and students to protest against Constitutional Amendment Proposal No. 2, which defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. Some could say the protest made little difference, while more than 80 percent of the voters voted in favor of the amendment.
That rally, along with others attracted more attention, while some local TV stations sent their crews to the free speech area to report what was happening.
At other times, the area’s protest have caused an appearance by the Texas Tech Police Department, for instance, the time the Good News Network, a traveling Christian ministry group, came to preach at Tech.
While the protest offended some people because they believed they took a harsh approach, it also gained the support from others who were glad to see people take a stand. Hundreds of students just came by to see what was going on.
Although the police came to the scene, they said there was no public disturbance, and the Good News Network continued its sermon until the next day.
In March 2003, the free speech zone was a place for people to speak out against the U.S. troops going back to war in Iraq. The protest was more than one week before Operation Iraqi Freedom took place. Many came because they believed there was an “alarming lack of discussion” about it.
Schools: Texas Tech University