SMC Holds Free Speech Event

A large painted sign hung in front of the library, the words, “First Amendment Month” written in imperfect calligraphy. This May is Santa Monica College’s (SMC) second annual First Amendment Month. SMC held a First Amendment Teach-In on Thursday to raise awareness of the amendment's implications. The event included a live debate from SMC’s debate team, and a discussion about first amendment rights in the Letters and Sciences Building.

The event began at a podium set up at the base of the library stairs where members of SMC’s debate team demonstrated a structured debate. The captain of the debate team, Shaindi Schwebel, argued against Dominic Smith, deliberating over whether social media should be able to ban accounts that incite violence

Smith, debating for the right to ban such accounts, made the argument that “what we are doing by banning these accounts is sending a message that this extremism, this hate, this advocating for violence is not welcome in our society.” Schwebel argued back, saying it’s unnecessary and ineffective to allow social media companies to ban these accounts. It also gives the companies way too much power to infringe upon our freedom of speech.

Upstairs in classroom 203 of the Letters and Sciences Building, surrounded by green chalk boards, a group of students from the student run paper, The Corsair, along with Journalism Professor Saul Rubin, hosted the discussion. 

Computer Science student Juliette Tafoya, 20, was walking by the Library when she saw the large sign displaying the words “First Amendment Month.” As someone who actively reads the news and worked for her high school newspaper, her connection to journalism is something that she feels passionately about. “I really like the event….Honestly I am a big advocator for freedom of expression.”

Japanese major Don Dennard, also participated in the discussion. “I wanted the pizza but I also was like, the First Amendment, I stand for, because I’m against censorship; but I also feel like there are limits to it that people don’t understand as far as it pertains to hate speech or to what exactly is protected under free speech and how that carries out in reality.”

Five events throughout the month of May are being offered by the Communication and Media Studies Department, including a First Amendment Photojournalism Gallery on display at the Center for Media and Design from May 6 through the 23.