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.
by Erin Brown
Red Alert Politics
Forget the First Amendment. Forget Freedom of Speech. Forget going through all the proper channels to express your rights as an American. In an explosive new video, FIRE, an individual rights organization exposes how one university managed to stifle the Constitutional rights of its students.
Last year, students at Sam Houston State University erected a “free speech wall” in which any student could write anything he or she wanted upon that wall as an expression of their first amendment rights. But as soon as an anti—Obama remark was written, a professor, with the help of the campus police, managed to have it censored because it was “offensive.”
If the comment “F**K Obama” wasn’t removed, the students in charge of the project were told they would face a misdemeanor.
Morgan Freeman, a philosophy student at SHSU and head of the libertarian Lovers of Liberty group, was unhappy with her school’s ability to interfere with student organizations by censoring and editing content on various SHSU groups’ social media sites. Freeman then had the idea to construct a “free speech wall” to “bring awareness to the free speech issue.” She cleared the idea with all of the proper university authorities and soon the 24 foot paper wall was a popular site on campus.
“We had every aspect of the political spectrum, all participating, all coming together on this really important issue…” Freeman said. She listed the College Republicans, Bearkat Democrats, and the Young Democratic Socialists as participants in the free speech wall. “NORML came out and they drew pro—cannabis statements all over the wall,” she said laughing.
Even though a wide variety of viewpoints was represented on the wall, Freeman caught heat from a university professor who took offense to one wall comment that read “F**K Obama. (Freeman notes the “f” word was in various places all over the wall.) The professor confronted Freeman and said “Young lady, you need to take this down. This is offensive.” After telling the professor that she had permission to do this and that it was a free speech wall, he replied, “Fine. I’ll take care of it myself.”
The professor then retrieved a box cutter from his office, returned to the wall, and proceeded to vandalize the project, removing the portion about the president that he did not like.
A police officer arrived, interviewed the students and then presented three options: the students could take down the wall, cover up all the “f” word profanity on the wall, or “put up new paper and censor what people wrote.”
“Just so I’m clear, free speech is legal until it offends someone?” she asked the officer. He replied with a simple “yes.”
Freeman was then told she’d face criminal charges if she did not abide by the officer’s terms. “If we didn’t comply with one of their options we were actually threatened with a misdemeanor,” Freeman recalls. Freeman and others then took down the wall in order to not “make a mockery of free speech” and comply with the officer’s request.
“The administration not trusting us to use our voices and to exercise our freedom speech really is insulting,” Freeman said in the video. Every Red Alert reader and Constitution—loving American should similarly be insulted by what happened to Freeman.
Born out of first—hand experience with censorship, Freeman has some good advice for young conservatives, and really all first amendment—loving young adults. “We’re adults, we’re not children. We’ve come to a university to discuss and engage in intellectual discourse and they want to silence that? … The purpose of a university is to learn and to engage in ideas. And if your university is violating that purpose, then I would say don’t be afraid. Go after them.”
She hits the nail on the head when she discussed the larger issue of liberty: “Having the ability to criticize political leaders, the president, whoever it might be, is, it’s a fundamental of a free society. If you can’t criticize your leaders, you’re not free. You’re not even close to free.”
She then discussed how the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education came to her rescue and helped her get the social media policy overturned. FIRE is an organization committed to “defending individual rights in higher education” and helped bring attention to the events that occurred at SHSU.
FIRE produced a video of Freeman recalling the entire series of events which you can watch below. (Warning: Strong language in the video)