Staff Writer: Simone Quary
Photo Credit: Associated Press
One of the most fundamental American rights, the right to freedom of speech, allows citizens to articulate their opinions on almost any platform without fear of retaliation by the government.
However, as with any law, there is a limit on this freedom. When the expression of an opinion results in the harm of a person or a group of people, legal prosecution must take place. In what seems to be a more polarized nation than ever before, the opinions and attitudes that people have expressed in the past are more likely to be challenged, and possibly face backlash.
College provides students of different backgrounds with the opportunity to engage in intellectual dialogue in a safe environment. But what happens when that safety is jeopardized? Minority students at Syracuse University are in this predicament.
Throughout the month of November, a slew of racist graffiti had been sprayed across campus, with the hateful language targeting students of African American, Native American and Asian descent. In addition, the Washington Post reports that over a dozen incidents involving hate speech were reported including an anti-Semitic email sent to a professor and racial slurs being shouted at black students. Despite four students being suspended for shouting racial slurs, it was the arrest of Syracuse University student Kym McGowan who sprayed graffiti supporting the protests of minority student that caused further outrage.
The hashtag #NotAgainSU began circulating various social media platforms along with videos of student protests, one of which black students led a sit-in at Syracuse University for six whole days. The video of the sit-in eventually gained the attention of actress Gabrielle Union, who tweeted Nov. 19: “This is terrifying and not getting nearly enough attention. Absolutely terrifying!! These students are being terrorized and their safety is clearly not a priority.”
Unaware of the protests led by minority students at Syracuse University, Mya Jones, a junior strategic communicators major expressed her support for the students while criticizing the administration.
“Six days is a lot of time for a sit-in protest. It shouldn’t have even got to this point and I think the administration and police should’ve handled this right when it happened,” Jones said.
In response to the public outrage, the administration decided to implement new safety measures over the university’s Thanksgiving break. This includes an increase in the number of security cameras and safety officers in addition to the number of professional guidance counselors. Despite these implemented changes, some students felt it was not enough. A list of demands that the students presented to administration called for the resignation of Chancellor Kent Syverud.
Students who are a part of the #NotAgainSU movement planned a protest Dec. 5, by placing canvasses around a building in which many classes were taught in. The students organizing the protest were denied entrance into the building, and classes were either cancelled entirely or relocated.
The administration of Syracuse University has a responsibility to protect student’s rights to freedom of speech and assembly, while also prosecuting those who use their rights to instill fear and endanger the lives of others. The opinions of the white supremacists may never change, but hopefully, a compromise between the students and administration can be reached.