The true purpose of the “Free Speech Area” has nothing to do with free speech.
by Zain Abouraia, Opinion Editor
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the freedom of speech to every American. So one has to ask, why does Valley College limit its students to a designated free-speech area?
It’s a safe bet that Valley students could give you the first name of each Kardashian sister but not name all their rights guaranteed by the Constitution. However, 99 percent of people would get the first one right: freedom of speech.
Valley limits its students’ freedom of speech to a small concrete area in front of the bookstore just 23 paces wide.
It is important to note that no one is restricting students’ freedom of speech or expression. Administrative Secretary to the Vice President of Student Services Francie Hurwit said outlining a designated area is an issue of “student safety.” Although, reading over the official literature it seems to be a means of controlling what some would call an annoying element on campus: solicitors.
You know, those people who shove petitions in your face and demand two minutes of your time for their chosen cause, religion or promotion is.
However, if limiting off-campus solicitors also limits students’ freedoms, then it is too high a price to pay. We cannot choose to whom the First Amendment applies. The National Enquirer and New York Times are guaranteed the same protection of their freedoms—even if the bulk of the Enquirer’s coverage involves conspiracy theories, the Kardashians and Bat Boy.
The term “free speech area” is a bit of a misnomer because there are so many restrictions on what can be said or done in the area. According to official the LACC Board of Trustees Free Speech Area Policy, the college president has the authority to designate an area for free speech and how long one can use it. Those interested in using it must request a permit through Student Services, commit to a scheduled time and sign a form agreeing to the rules.
These rules state that those using the area must censor the content of their speech and assure it “is not obscene, libelous, or slanderous according to current legal standards.” However, what qualifies as obscene is not defined.
While the college’s goal to weed out solicitors is well intentioned, the execution does more harm than good. Freedom of speech is a legal term that includes freedom of religion, freedom of the press, the rights to peaceful assembly and to petition the government for a redress of your grievances.