Students Must Regain Control of Free-Speech Debate

    STUDENT LIFE — Every once in a while, an event occurs that pushes even most apathetic people to stop what they are doing and, even if for the briefest of moments, actually care about what is going on around them.

    However, this university’s history of apathy — demonstrated most notably by the lack of student interest in referenda and even voting to fill the office of A.S. president — made the possibility for this to happen at UCSD laughable at best.

    At least, that was what history would have led most students to believe, until spring quarter of 2007, when school administrators attempted to pass a blatantly unconstitutional free-speech policy during finals week and got caught.The entire problem started with a surprisingly crafty attempt to push the revision of the free-speech policy without the students noticing. An innocuous looking e-mail titled “Review of PPM 510-1 Section IX,” sent the week before finals, was designed by administrators to prevent any serious discontent, since students would supposedly be too stressed to care about yet another agonizingly trivial e-mail from the university. But this message laid out extremely drastic limits to campus free speech policy, including prohibiting impromptu gatherings of more than 10 people.

    Then suddenly, out of nowhere, an opposition movement arose. Massive Facebook groups started appearing. Protests started forming, and the issue even drew the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union. It seemed that, for a brief and glorious moment, the student body at UCSD would finally tell the administration to back off.

    However, almost a year and a half later, the masses have returned to silence, and it’s not because justice triumphed and the administration decided once and for all to respect students’ rights as (supposedly) mature adults. Actually, the administration simply changed its strategy, attempting to outlast students by turning the rewriting of the policy into a process so long and drawn out that students would graduate before any end appeared in sight. That way, the policy revision could be picked back up after UCSD refilled itself with fresh-faced first-years unaware of the impending policy changes.

    Sadly, this tactic has proven somewhat effective. In fact, after a few months the student body as a whole seemed to have forgotten about the issue entirely, and after almost a year and a half nothing is left of the budding student movement but a small group of activists, fighting on behalf of everyone else who is too busy to care.

    To think that UCSD came so close to a movement and then stopped is frustrating. More students were involved in the debate over the destruction of Sun God last year than are currently fighting to maintain basic freedoms. Yes, taking away the spirit of Sun God will make the campus suck significantly more, but giving administrators the potential power to fine or arrest any student who dares to challenge their draconian policy, if enacted, is downright scary.

    And it really is the students who should be blamed. Although college is stressful, what with the studying, drinking and visiting parents every weekend, civil liberties should never be placed on the back burner.

    In case anyone has forgotten, this policy would have required a permit for anyone doing anything anywhere on campus that made anyone else an unwilling audience. Is the attention span of the average UCSD student so short that such an insane policy only raises eyebrows for a few weeks? Is chemistry really so important that it is takes precedence over your ability to freely express yourself?

    There is currently a coalition helping to maintain the fight, but it needs all of the help that it can get. To help the coalition, fellow students must get informed, get pissed and then e-mail their A.S. Council representatives and administrators to show we will not be walked on.

    There’s even a Facebook group, “UCSD Defend Your Freedom of Speech, NOW,” so that you can get involved and find out how you are needed without leaving your chair. Could it get any easier? Plus, you get to satisfy that nagging sense of moral obligation, so put the textbooks aside for a few minutes and make something useful with your time.

    Albert Einstein said that “the world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” Unfortunately, it seems that the vast majority of the UCSD campus fits perfectly into the latter category. With the problems present in global politics today, can future UCSD graduates who wouldn’t defend their own civil rights be counted upon to contribute and make a positive impact on the world? Unless students act now, the prospect is disheartening.

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