Friday, March 9, 2007

Free speech will cost you

Annika and others have talked about this incident at the University of Southern California (more Grammy awards than any other university, or so a co-worker tells me).

[On Thursday March 8], USC Free Culture invited students to our campus’ “Free Speech Zone” to speak freely and openly about issues of importance. Students spoke about...their haircuts....

Take that, Boston. Continued:

Even more students brought sidewalk chalk with which they wrote words and drew pictures within the “Free Speech Zone” boundaries.

In a mild act of civil disobedience, USC Free Culture posted flyers outside of the “Free Speech Zone” that stated simply “This is Not a Free Speech Zone.”...

The university soon sent us an e-mail, fining USC Free Culture for violating university policy on unapproved flyer posting and charging us an undisclosed amount for the removal of the sidewalk chalk. USC Free Culture’s scheduling privileges, which are necessary for most on-campus group activities, have been suspended until the fines are paid.

On principle, we’ve agreed to pay the price for posting the flyers which were placed outside the “Free Speech Zone” and against university regulations....We wanted to make a point and we will bear the consequences wholeheartedly.

Let me interrupt again and say that I admire them for this. You can go all the way back to Daniel 6 to see examples of people who engaged in civil disobedience against the state, and then accepted the consequences of their actions. None of this "I'll break the law and plead innocent" junk. Continued:

However, many others also used sidewalk chalk as a means of expression....We were attempting to practice free speech rights in a meaningful way and enable our peers to do so as well. To fine us for doing so seems antithetical to USC’s stated mission.

Now one could argue that free speech should not be taken to extremes - a nudist with a machine gun and a ghetto blaster hooked up to one of the Who's amplifiers might be over the line - but since when is sidewalk chalk outside of the boundaries of free speech?


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