UMass Amherst: Don't Deny Students Free Speech!
The 30,000 students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are subject to some of the worst restrictions on free speech at university-level in the United States.
University officials have mandated restrictive policies which, among other things, only allow students to hold speeches or rallies between the hours of 12noon and 1pm, when class is in session. And, also, any such speeches or rallies must be held in a type of "safe space-speech zone", which has been designated for the purpose.
And, not only that. Apparently, these draconian measures militate heavily against the freedom of speech of an individual on campus, as only groups (not individuals) may apply for "speaking space" (like, rooms or auditoriums), outside of the "safe space-speech zone."
If these types of restrictions on the First Amendment don't alarm you, they should! Such restrictions not only have a chilling effect on free speech, but they are also unconstitutional!
And, that's why the Young Americans for Liberty Chapter at UMass Amherst, together with the liberty-loving legal outfit Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), filed a lawsuit against the University on January 8th, 2018.
That's also why this petition, directed to the Chancellor of UMass, and Cc'ed to Young Americans for Liberty and ADF, is calling for the University to rescind these draconian restrictions with immediate effect.
If UMass Amherst were a private university, the casual observer might allow for the idiosyncrasies of such harsh and chilling restrictions on the freedom of speech - if the students understood and accepted (beforehand) that that would be the policy. However, UMass Amherst is a public university, in receipt of tax-payer funding. Therefore, the University simply must abide by the fundamental law of the land.
Tax-payers have the right to demand that their funding be used in accord with the Constitution.
But, the Chancellor, Dr. Kumble R. Subbaswamy, already knows this instinctively. In fact, only 8 months ago, Dr. Subbaswamy had an op-ed piece published in the Boston Globe, in which he expounded on the virtues of "academic freedom."
In the following part of that essay, Dr. Subbaswamy declares that it is the university's place to defend academic freedom (and, the more basic freedom of speech which underpins it):
"As researchers, scholars, and teachers, it is our responsibility to protect the pursuit of truth on our college campuses. We must challenge the preconceived notions of our students and society at large through rigorous, fact-based presentation and the dissemination of information based on scholarly processes.
It is imperative that the university be a place where the great issues of the day are vigorously debated, whether they be economic, social, philosophical, or political. And while a university community must not tolerate hate speech, on a free and open campus no idea should be banned or forbidden."
But, the current policies do not exactly encourage "vigorous" debate. Quite to the contrary, they actually do "ban and forbid" ideas from being publicly expressed for more than 95% of the day, in a space that equates to less than 1% of the area of the UMass campus...
So, let us now politely, but firmly, ask Dr. Subbaswamy to abide by the law of the land, and actually put into practice his decent theoretical notions about academic freedom and freedom of speech.
UMass: Show true tolerance for free speech, and practise what you preach!
Thank you for signing this important petition.
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UMASS Amherst: Don't Deny Students Free Speech!