As an institution of higher learning we expect the University of Miami to promote civic engagement, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly; these values are critical for democracy. However, instead of encouraging these ideals on campus and welcoming open dialogue, our university has been suppressing the voices of Overtown leaders, residents and their supporters. A small group of administrators has made swift and decisive moves to quickly eliminate Overtown’s voice on campus. They take down innocent flyers, mark related e-mails as spam, and have tried to criminalize messages written in children’s sidewalk chalk. Recently, an Overtown supporter was interrogated by the police, given an official trespassing warning, and banned from visiting campus for two years as a result of his participation in the aforementioned activities. Now, this small group of administrators is using a single chalk incident to formally charge STAND with vandalism, and is trying to shut the organization down. When other student organizations use sidewalk chalk or flyers to advertise events, meetings or even political ideologies, they face no oppression. Administrators have suppressed the truth, demonstrating that they have no respect for the opinions and desires of Overtown residents. People all around the world are protesting violations of their civil liberties, staging revolutions for democracy, and demanding their right to freedom of expression be acknowledged. Students and faculty, widely praised as protectors of democratic values, should not sit idly by while violations of rights occur on their own campus. If you support freedom of speech on our campus, help us create a mural on the ROCK, Tuesday, April 19 from 12 to 2 p.m.
Erin Pelletier is a freshman majoring in philosophy and political science.