“Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom – and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech,” Benjamin Franklin once said.
One must understand that with the freedom of speech comes great responsibility- -a responsibility that does not need to be taken lightly. The University of Missouri in all its controversies proves a prime example of this infamous quote concerning multiple accounts.
The trickle effect could be used to best describe the University of Missouri’s current situation. Former president Timothy Wolfe and former chancellor R. Bowen Loftin both “made a series of enemies among faculty, graduate students and legislators” in regard to issues such as “abortion rights, tea-party politics, academic publishers, graduate student benefits and their responses to racially inclined incidences,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Recent racial issues include a swastika drawn on a dorm wall with feces. Lack of action taken by Wolfe and Loftin was the tip of the iceberg as racial tensions began to spiral out of control. This caused a series of protests such as the hunger strike and the strike against playing in their upcoming game by a group of Mizzou football players. Each group had one common ground: they wanted President Wolfe to resign among other demands such as hiring more black faculty and staff.
One demand was met as Wolfe resigned, followed by Loftin. However upon talking with USM media law professor Justin Martin, I have learned that hiring faculty and staff based strictly upon a specific race is not legally allowed. In fact, in most legal documents it is enforced that no discriminatory action be taken based upon a specific gender and/or race.
Another incident in which legality was questioned was the incident forcing a student reporter to be removed from the protest site. Due to the protests taking place in a public space, the student reporter legally had the right to video the protests. Martin provided more insight into the situation.
“The government cannot abridge freedom of speech with few exceptions: obscenities, jeopardizing national security, fighting words or violence,” Martin said.
These students are using their given right, yes, but it is necessary to think carefully about the consequences of their words and actions.
The protesters at the University of Missouri have the ability to bring positive change and restore peace on a campus currently overtaken with chaos and fear. That in itself is powerful. However, something as powerful as change should be taken seriously and looked upon in a rational manner for successful results. Hopefully the University of Missouri can restore itself, learn from these incidences and better itself in hopes of a brighter future where all students, no matter the race, can unite as one and proudly call Mizzou their educational home.