PODCAST: Free speech event offers uncensored opinions
Campus celebrates 1st Amendment
September 12, 2007 8:43 PM
Mandeep Sethi, an 18-year-old Broadcasting and Electronic Communication Arts major, walked onto the outdoor stage of Malcolm X plaza, grabbed the open microphone, introduced himself to an audience of hundreds of students and proceeded to freestyle for a few minutes about topics ranging from Miles Davis and jazz to traveling to politics and war.
“I saw Free Speech Day, so I was like, ‘Oh, I’m about to get on stage,’” Sethi said. “Certain beliefs will unite us and I’m down with free speech; I don’t care who you are.”
The idea to have a day dedicated to First Amendment rights stemmed from the controversial flag stomping incident last year when the College Republicans stepped on homemade Hezbollah and Hama’s flags, upon which the Arabic symbol for Allah was written, said Melanie Christensen, publicity officer for the College Republicans. When the University took action against them, the College Republicans felt their rights had been violated, said Leigh Wolf, President of the SF State chapter.
“Everybody has a right to say what they want,” said Christensen. “And the school shouldn’t be allowed to limit that or punish anybody for something they want to say because it’s uncivil.” The College Republicans have no official stance on hate speech, said Christensen.
Students spoke about a variety of topics including fee hikes, child raising, Ron Paul, and, of course, the First Amendment. Some students took the opportunity to share poems and perform spoken word pieces.
“I think it’s cool to get people out sharing,” said Scott Rhodes, who shared a poem titled ‘Wait to Bear’. “I wish a lot more of this went on. I think it’s a shame that we have something called ‘Free Speech Day, you know.”
Micheal Hoffman, a member of the International Socialist Organization, voiced his suspicions of the College Republicans’ motives behind the event.
“You can have a free speech rally, trying to make yourself look good,” said Hoffman, 26, “but in the end, when you advocate policies that have a disastrous effect on the ability of people to speak out, you’re a hypocrite.”
SF State was prepared with several police officers and Police Captain Patrick Wasley was present as well as a video camera recording each speech from an upper level window in the student center. Although, speakers often didn’t agree with one another, no controversy broke out, campus police said.
“There’s such a range of students out here,” said Ellen Griffin, Director of Public Affairs and Publications for SF State, “One speaker follows the other and they’re on the exact opposite sides of a position or issue and there’s just a lot of civility and respect out here.”
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