Preparation For Free Speech Week

Next week at UC Berkeley, we will experience an event that could hold catastrophic consequences.  In terms of what this may mean to a passerby, or someone who’s only somewhat familiar with the campus, the consequences of last years violent riots are still present not only to the outside world, but also to us on the inside.  The damages of this violence did not only include the loss and blatant disrespect of the city and campus property, but they also took something away from the students which they had worked so carefully to have; respect and a voice.  

Being a freshman, I was not here for the events of last spring, and I cannot give a completely unbiased opinion about them as I have heard too many students hear speak about their own versions  of what had happened and give different reasons as to whether the events were justifiable or not.  From my point of view, acts of violence to try and achieve a change are never acceptable, and they demean not only your position, but also everyone who is fighting for that change in a respectful manner.  

It has been a challenge to try to explain to my family and friends that the events of last spring are not representative of the campus as a whole, and that those are not the sort of occurrences that will determine the college experience for me.  They may tell me that this has always been the way that Berkeley is, however, I do believe that this school has been the birthplace of wonderful past developments, and I do believe that our student body has the potential to make positive waves again.  

Although, there are some factors for this next week that have been lacking.  For one, my friends and I were afraid to leave our rooms during the protests last weekend, as we didn’t know what to expect.  To those who went to protest, we cannot make a difference here while our school does not have the respect it needs to push its message out into the rest of the world.  I am not telling you not to protest, I am urging you to do so in a respectful manner.  It is both ignorant and foolish to complain about the number of police who were there, they were not there to harm you.  They were there to protect you from the probable chaos that they expected, and I can ensure you that they were afraid as well.  

It is not fair that this is the expectation we have as students, our university spent over $600,000 on the security measures that we taken that day in order to ensure our safety and protect the area that we live in. It is our duty both as members of the university and of this community to respect the efforts of all members involved in preserving it regardless of whether or not you agree with the measures of security we had on campus and in the city.  It’s also unreasonable to believe that the university can fund four days of security during Free Speech week.  

Another disturbing aspect of this entire ordeal is that other colleges in the state have shut down the same speakers that we are having on campus due to fear that their students would not feel safe on campus.  The lashback the press has given our campus has resulted from our reputation at a school, however what is more important? Our reputation for creating “Freedom of Speech,” or the safety of our students?

I say “Freedom of Speech” because I do not agree that all of what will be said during this following week will fit into the bounds of what this phrase should mean.  I understand that both sides have a right to speak, however I disagree that any form of hate speech should fall under the first amendment.  I do not agree that targeting students for not fitting the fascist ideals is appropriate, and I also do not agree with the thought that these actions could be considered legal.  

“Congress shall make no law [...] prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble [...].”

Peaceable.  

It would appear that whether or not the expected line-up of speakers next week actually appear, the media will still strew the actions of our student body as incorrect.  We have a reputation to uphold once we step foot on this campus; We need to push for positive growth of our society as a country.  As I have heard many community members and professors say, “These kids are the future.” Now is our time to actually gain back the push we had as an institution and make a real difference.  Stay respectful, stay peaceful, bring Berkeley back.