Opinion

Free speech at UM takes a hit: big investments do not

The US Navy was recently giving away free food on the Rock. Re: The military occupied the “free speech zone.” Am I the only one who found that ironic?

As I’m sure most Cubans (and Cuban-Americans) know, Fidel Castro argues that even though we have free speech in the United States, it is extremely difficult to gain access to the media, and subsequently, to gain significant attention-so really, what’s the point of having free speech, especially if the alternative for many is starving?

Most people realize that the very concept of having a “free speech zone” within the US is ironic. Our constitution guarantees us freedom of speech. Having a “free speech zone” implies that people are not allowed to express themselves freely anywhere else at UM. Yeah it’s private property, but it’s more than that: it’s a community.

Furthermore, only organizations are allowed to reserve the free speech zone. You have to reserve your right to free speech on campus, often months in advance, and only if your message pertains to something that an organization is willing to book the Rock for.

It gets better. UM policy states that any written material distributed on UM property must be approved beforehand. This rule, which is extremely detrimental to our freedom of expression, isn’t enforced very often, but that’s the point, isn’t it? It’s not enforced universally or uniformly, and therefore can be, and has been used to silence certain voices of opposition.

I have a big problem with that, because I object to many aspects of the University’s politics, especially given the unusually high degree of influence that they have over the University’s financial investments, such as buying and re-zoning an environmental preserve in order to build condos. I’m not an animal person: I don’t do pets, I like my steak bloody, and nine times out of ten, I’m with Darwin-and I don’t hug trees, even metaphorically. But what were they thinking?

Here’s what I’d ask for. Unless someone’s going to build large structures, allow free speech all over campus. Also, get rid of the approval process for flyers, and specify offensive terms and concepts, then punish people accordingly. Finally, stop being inconsiderate corporatist investors. Or at least pull your head out of your ass when investing our money.

Bethany Quinn is a senior majoring in Latin American Studies and Photography. She may be contacted at b.quinn@umiami.edu

September 22, 2006

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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.