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Student activist: Letting people write on a beach ball is ‘putting people’s lives in danger’

‘Anti-authoritarian’ wants administrators to judge what’s offensive

Recent surveys of college students don’t exactly give me confidence that these young people have much appreciation for their own constitutional rights, much less those of others.

Unwilling to talk to someone who expresses an “offensive statement.” Fearful of saying something that someone else might find offensive. Convinced there’s something called “hate speech” that is not legally protected even on a public university campus.

Then you see something crazy by a student activist and you realize all these other students are in the middle of the spectrum among their peers.

Oregon State University’s Daily Barometer did a recent feature on free speech on campus. Administrators mostly said correct things – they can’t legally stop you (under the U.S. or state constitution) from sharing even offensive opinions, but they can legally impose time, place and manner restrictions.

The university even has a green-light rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, meaning its policies “nominally protect free speech.”

One of the student activists who has used his own speech to petition the university to rename certain buildings, however, proudly advertises his unwillingness to let others use theirs.

Political science major Patrick Storment, a member of the leaderless anti-capitalist group Allied Students for Another Politics, denounces the university for not censoring supposedly “hateful messages.”

MORE: ‘Karl Marx’ stabs free-speech ball with knife

The kind that might appear on a beach ball:

“By going down this road of allowing freedom of speech for all beliefs, we allow corrosive and really hateful beliefs to be expressed,” Storment said. “It is more important that we are minimizing that than protecting the overall value of freedom of speech.”

Storment pointed to an event put on by the campus conservative and libertarian group Turning Point USA, in which a large beach ball was made available to students to write any message they wanted. He noted that some students choose to express racist and sexist beliefs when given the opportunity. Even if statements are not made against individuals, for Storment, allowing the expression of bigoted views is a tacit endorsement of those views on the part of that group, as well as the university itself, Storment added.

“I still think the value of free speech is important, but when you are putting people’s lives in danger in any capacity, there is no room for that,” Storment said. “That speech ball gives people the ability to say more hateful stuff.”

MORE: Linfield College investigates club for free-speech ball with Pepe on it

Let’s get this straight. Right-of-center and libertarian student groups have done this free-speech beach-ball thing all over the country, and mostly administrators have freaked out (notwithstanding the knife freak).

Now this “anti-authoritarian” who advocates for “another politics” is begging administrators to judge if something is so “bigoted” that no one can express that thought because it would mean the university endorses it. (Then again, this was the U.S. government’s idiotic and unsuccessful argument for blocking The Slants from registering their trademark.)

Writing something on a plastic ball, on its own, is “putting people’s lives in danger”!

Storment is far from the worst of the activists, though.

‘Anti-choice rhetoric’ threatens our ’emotional and mental safety’

The abortion lobby at Canada’s Wilfrid Laurier University, now infamous for telling teaching assistant Lindsay Shepherd it’s illegal to expose college students to debate, is petitioning the university to strangle a student pro-life group.

In a Change.org petition that may cause your eyes to roll back so far they get stuck, Laurier Students for Pro-Choice claim it simply wants “greater accountability” from their student government.

That means not only adopting a formal abortion-rights position in the student government, but choking off student money for Laurier LifeLink and banning the pro-life group from holding events in public.

Someone will have to explain to me the meaning of “a strike policy” to “ensure accountability after instances of harm.” It certainly sounds like shutting down the entire pro-life club if someone is offended by their activism, if not disciplinary action:

LifeLink hosts demonstrations on Laurier’s Waterloo campus that have included visual pro-life/anti-choice messaging and harassment of students. By doing so, this group has knowingly created conditions that endanger the emotional and mental safety of students affected by anti-choice rhetoric. These demonstrations create an environment where women and people with uteruses are made to feel unsafe and individuals who have had abortions are exposed to harm.

MORE: Public university requires pro-life group to post ‘trigger warnings’ for display

Ignore that “women and people with uteruses” thing for a second. Simply saying that humans at the earliest stage of life are humans is grounds for defunding and disciplinary action, in the twisted worldview of these activists.

The petition, which is approaching 400 signatures, confusingly ends with the activists encouraging readers to contact diversity and sexual-violence offices “if engaging in this discussion has been harmful to you.”

Are they talking about readers just reading their petition, or telling them to report pro-life activists to campus administrators?

I might have to report them to the sexual-violence center for unconscionably and recklessly leaving off a trigger warning from the petition.

MORE: Steep spike in vandalism of pro-life campus displays

IMAGE: 30 Rock screenshot

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” Previously he led media and public relations at Seattle’s Discovery Institute, a free-market think tank. Greg is developing a Web series about a college newspaper, COPY, whose pilot episode was a semifinalist in the TV category for the Scriptapalooza competition in 2012. He graduated in 2001 with a B.A. from Seattle Pacific University, where he co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon.

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