The purpose of free speech is to protect the marketplace of ideas, to protect expression in all of its forms, from inspiring to dissenting, from poetic to offensive (though there are a few, limited exceptions). Is there any place more appropriate in protecting such a market than the university setting? A place, we are told, that encourages critical thinking and challenges conventional thinking. Is this really true? In many ways, yes, but many forms of speech are not protected.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a non-profit group that deals in campus free speech issues, helps students understand how their university’s speech codes can land them in trouble with administrators, and also helps students with their legal battles when they do.
FIRE, along with Students for Liberty, (of which Liberty at BU is a member) sponsored a national free speech week from April 1-8, 2012 in order to raise awareness about campus speech restrictions. Approximately 80 clubs across the country participated in the event.
Liberty at BU participated by building a nine feet long, self-standing wooden free speech wall that featured a roll of vinyl paper 165 feet long that could be scrolled across the plywood face. The wall was placed in the main hall of the George Sherman Student Union for five days before being abruptly removed by Student Activities Office (SAO) administrators.
This report catalogues the students’ comments made on our free speech wall, documents our issues with the SAO, and highlights free speech issues at here at Boston University through the eyes of FIRE. Hopefully, this inaugural report will be the first of many annual reports regarding free speech issues here at Boston University.
Click HERE to read the full report: