It’s a story as familiar as it is frustrating: students censoring other students by destroying their displays on campus. The College Fix reports that on Tuesday, University of Southern California (USC) student and USC Students For Life President Lisa Ebiner Gavit caught two of her peers in the act as they were ripping up her display consisting of four posters and 275 white hearts, meant to represent how many abortions take place nationwide every two hours. As we’ve explained here on The Torch, vandalizing a display that another individual or group set up is, well, vandalism—and students who disagree with the ideas expressed by a display should talk about it or make their own display rather than resorting to criminal behavior.
In this case, the display nevertheless led to a dialogue between students with different viewpoints, a result with which Gavit said she is pleased. Gavit told The College Fix that one of the women who vandalized her display eventually came back, apologized, and talked to Gavit about her views on abortion. Later that day, students in Gavit’s women’s studies class who had seen the display initiated a frank discussion about the issue, fulfilling a central purpose of the university environment: exposure to new ideas and open debate.
It is commendable that Gavit and her classmates were ultimately able to have that discussion, but it’s disappointing that some college students across the country still feel compelled to (and sometimes feel entitled to) vandalize their peers’ property in order to silence differing viewpoints. Such actions are not just illegal but also an example of students “unlearning liberty”—opting for censorship over a robust “marketplace of ideas.”
As we’ve said before and no doubt will say again: The best answer to speech with which we disagree is more speech, not censorship.
Image: University of Southern California Bovard Auditorium – Washingtonpost.com