Opinion: Freedom of Speech

Emily Unruh

Recently, I saw a picture circulating twitter about a Washburn table with pro-gun posters. There was anger over the allowance of posters advertising acceptance of guns in wake of the Parkland shooting and the March for our Lives. The posters were stamped and approved by the Student Life office, and the frustration was met with the explanation of freedom of speech.

However, the question that some asked was, do we as students really have freedom of speech if we have to get our posters stamped by Student Life every damn time? I’d argue that the implications of the First Amendment have always been dictated by the person in authority. Everything has a hierarchy, and as students, we answer to the Student Life office, or the faculty and board of regents. There is never a time in your life as a student when you will be afforded the ability to post anything without permission, or consequences.

The world we live in is full of varying opinions. Political, social, cultural and religious differences are the backbone of our society. Yet, there is always a “commanding officer” who is the ultimate decision maker. As a member of a sorority, there are rules about what we are allowed to put online. The rules are not to restrict our “freedom of speech,” but instead to protect the integrity of the organization we are parts of. Everyone is part of something bigger, and the reality of being a “cog in the machine” is that we have leaders, and rules and guidelines about how we function. Even when we leave college, our employers will have standards about what can be said, posted or shared. When we don’t comply with those standards, there are consequences, such as termination or a demotion.

While there will always be someone in authority, a professor or a president, there is always more power in the people. I used to have a teacher who said, “Just because you have the right to say it, doesn’t mean it is the right thing to say.” Freedom of speech is objective. Authority dictates the consequences and we live with the repercussions. Students might feel like they are the bottom of the food chain, especially when we have to do things like stamp our posters, but realistically we are the largest shareholders in our university.