Speaker’s Corner Limits Free Speech

MORGAN LEGEL | Columnist

The 2013-2014 Butler University student handbook has provided students a “convenient and visible” place to spontaneously protest on campus–— Norris Plaza.

Named the Speaker’s Corner, Norris Plaza is a place where students can exercise their right to free speech on campus without being punished.

The student handbook contains a small blurb about the Speaker’s Corner, which includes what it is and its purpose:

“To provide a convenient and visible location for spontaneous student activism and civic engagement activities/programs on campus, Norris Plaza is designated as the ‘Speaker’s Corner’ for individual students and student groups,” according to the handbook. “Typical activities might include: Displaying a sign board which allows students to write their opinions, student speeches or handouts on a current issue, a memorial vigil, etc. These activities do not require registration when they do not involve persons outside the University, are not amplified, or cause a safety hazard.”

The first issue that arises is the location of Norris Plaza. Very few, if any, Butler students would be able to tell you where it was by name.

The location of Norris Plaza is in the middle of Jordan and Lily Halls and the Pharmacy and Health Sciences Building. It is the little brick walk with a tiny fountain and benches.

“I don’t really like that the free speech zone is isolated on campus,” sophomore Aliye Kidwell said. “It kind of takes away the whole making people hear you thing, which is pretty important for a protest.”

Another issue that arises is that the zone is designated for activities such as displaying sign boards, speeches and memorials.

If it truly was this free speech zone like the university claims, there would not be these examples intended to play down any effect a “protest” might have on campus.

“Being a student in a liberal arts university,” Kidwell said, “I feel like I should be able to say whatever I want, whenever I want, given that it doesn’t directly harm anybody.”

The handbook also states that, as long as everyone participating is part of the campus, the “protest” is not amplified, and there is no safety hazard, one does not have to register.

These rules are limiting the amount of free speech allowed in this supposed free speech zone.

A protest should be open to anyone willing to support the cause, part of the university or not.

As long as it is peaceful, a protest should be allowed to have as much “amplification” as it needs to get the point across.

Whether this amplification comes from a lot of people, a multitude of signs, or anything else campus officials might describe as amplification, it should be permitted.

Allowing anyone to participate creates a bigger protest.

If a protest has to be registered, it is no longer spontaneous, and defeats the purpose of a protest.

A protest, by definition, is an expression or declaration of objection, disapproval, or dissent, often in opposition to something a person is powerless to prevent or avoid.

For that reason, the Speaker’s Corner is not at all what it seems.

By enforcing all these rules, the university is using the Speaker’s Corner as a cover.

Free speech is not supposed to be limited like it is within this area.

Worst of all, Butler is advertising the corner as if it is a gift to the students.