Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Westhem: freedom of expression sacred on campus

When asked about the university’s treatment of free speech on campus, Provost Etchemendy claimed that “it’s easier to make decisions and to manage a private university versus a state school.” This got me thinking about how far a university is willing to use its ability to control speech and actions on campus. The answer: not far at all unless absolutely necessary.
            “You protect above all the freedom of expression. We might let The Daily know if they wrote a poorly researched article but we won’t shut them down,”  said Etch.
            There really is no clear cut answer for where to draw the line in regards to the extent of freedom of expression, even though as a private university Stanford very well could have one.
            I expressed my ponderings with Armin Rosencranz and he told us that before the free speech movement, no one had spoken out previously at Stanford—it was actually prohibited under the original founding grant.
            And then on the flip side, across the bay you had Berkeley (which you would think would be more regulated since it’s a state school, but they were at the forefront of the Free Speech Movement.
            The original grant made clear that “no partisan or political/religious activity” would be allowed on campus. I can’t imagine a Stanford campus without the level of student involvement and diversity of voices that it has today. The student groups and the rallies and protests and demonstrations that they put on are what make up the diverse student culture on camps and I am pleased (especially as an editor at The Daily) to hear from Etch that the university has no interest in quieting any form of student expression
            David Harris, in answering the question of when it necessary for the school leaders to step in and restrict student freedom of expression said that students should just “stay within the rule of law. I don’t think anything I did was outside the boundaries.” So basically, Stanford will tolerate a lot and does not want to limit student expression by any means—as long as there’s no perjury, false accusations, or libel. We are lucky to attend such a tolerant University. 

No comments: