Just two weeks after we first reported news of student vandalism at DePaul University, school officials have concluded their investigation and released a report on the students involved. As Torch readers may recall, the controversy first began when the campus chapter of Young Americans for Freedom erected a pro-life display consisting of 500 small blue and pink flags to mark the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Rather than engage in a debate with their fellow students, several individuals tore up the display and tossed the flags into nearby trash cans. According to the school’s report, the named students
had seen anti-abortion posters around campus earlier in the day that they found offensive. They had an emotional discussion prior to class, and after class they all walked out to the quad together. They then started pulling up all the flags and put them in garbage cans and carried some off to their next class.
Such a reaction is all too common on campus today, as more and more students are bamboozled into believing that the destruction of another’s expression is a permissible—even noble—action. But as FIRE’s Peter Bonilla pointed out in his coverage of the incident, “Suppressing another person’s right to free expression is not an act of free expression. It’s censorship, and in this case, also vandalism.”
FIRE is glad that the students in this case have stepped forward and, according to the report, now realize that “their actions were not appropriate.” We were also pleased to see DePaul officials react quickly to the events and express a commitment to fostering open discourse on campus (a commitment they haven’t always lived up to). The students will now face DePaul’s student judicial process. In the end, FIRE hopes that they, and their fellow students, use this experience as a chance to increase their understanding of free expression and learn, once and for all, that vandalism is never an alternative to debate and open discussion.