Staff Editorial: Free Speech
This semester at Santa Monica College, students have become active in politics and have exercised their free speech rights regularly, and some would say without restraint. At major SMC events, from Club Row to "Career Island," the First Amendment of the Constitution has become a popular tool for students and faculty to make sure that their voices are heard, despite criticism.
On March 14, SMC students angered by the presence of military recruiters on campus launched the "Week of Resistance," in which a dozen students attended a Board of Trustees hearing with the objective of banning soldiers from promoting the military on campus.
The military recruiters have every right to be on campus expressing their beliefs, speaking with students and telling them what they have to offer.
The students opposing them also have every right to take a stand and show their opposition to the military. Both sides have equal right to be present on campus and assert their beliefs.
In recent times, Californians have used their voice to express their dissatisfaction with Gov. Gray Davis' performance, which resulted in him being ousted,with Arnold Schwarzenegger elected to take his place.
Now Schwarzenegger will possibly attend SMC's graduation ceremony. We believe that he should visit and speak, just as we believe that people should be able to voice their dissent. Having a forum for politics is important and hindering this process through protesting often does more harm than good Especially in this case where it will hurt the chance for possible discussion with SMC students if he doesn't visit.
Why don't these politically active students set up a debate with him or try to talk with him? Does yelling at him as a minority political faction really help?
Also tied to the First Amendment were the anti-abortion protests, led by members of the Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, more than two months ago. The decision as to whether or not abortion should be banned is an issue that has been debated across the country. The anti-abortion group's actions sparked many arguments and nearly led to violence when students were angered by their demonstrations. Although many believed the display should not have occurred, it is no different than the protests of the anti-military groups; both have the right to display what they wish before the public, raising their voices, and presenting their opinions.
The last major SMC event in which the First Amendment came into play concerned "Career Island," in which members of the Progressive Alliance, the Anti-War on the World Coalition, and the Coalition in Solidarity with Cuba joined forces to stand against military recruiters who arrived as equal opportunity employers.
Some teachers and students objected to the activists' conduct, believing that their actions brought down the high spirit of the event. Certain businesses were also deterred by the anti-military protestors and might not return next year.
Whether or not it is wrong for the military to be on campus, and regardless if abortion should be considered illegal, the First Amendment protects all opinions equally, allowing all people to have their say and make their own decisions.