Fighting for Free Speech on the Diag

free speechOn Friday, September 18th, a group of students gathered on the Diag to celebrate the constitution and encourage freedom of expression on campus. Armed with a giant beach ball, sharpies, and constitutions, members of the Students for Liberty chapter at the University of Michigan worked to foster an understanding of first amendment rights on campus.

On  campuses across the country, many students have felt that new regulations have chilled freedom of speech and freedom of expression. “We hoped to bring awareness to the issue and acknowledge that even on college campuses your free speech rights are still protected,” Caryn Greenberg, who organized the event, explained.

As students, faculty, and community members crisscrossed the Diag throughout the afternoon, Students for Liberty volunteers asked if they would like to participate by writing on the beach ball.  “You can write whatever you want,” they were told, and “Take a moment to express your freedom of speech.” Many stopped to do just that. Others were more interested in the pocket constitutions that were also available and being handed out by volunteers.

Although this event was successful and those who participated both learned from it and enjoyed expressing themselves, the “free speech ball” was denied an official university permit. After applying for a permit and being declined official permission, Students for Liberty decided to proceed with their free speech event anyways.

This is not the first time that Students for Liberty applications for event permits has been declined. “This happened to us numerous times last year. I decided that the student body deserves to be heard,” said Caryn Greenberg.

At the end of the day, the beach ball was covered in writing and multiple boxes of pocket constitutions had been distributed. Caryn Greenberg noted, “Students had really positive reactions. Most people seemed not only excited to be able to write whatever they wanted on the ball, but were event excited to receive free constitutions.” She added, “I think this shows the desire that students have to know about their constitutional rights.”

Students for Liberty reminded volunteers and participants alike that on campus that their rights still apply on campus. They also encouraged fellow students who might be interested in learning more or who might need support in a freedom of speech issue to contact the chapter. During the event, the volunteers also talked about the November 7th, 2015 conference to be hosted in the Michigan Union. This will be a free event that discusses freedom of speech as well as other issues of liberty.

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About Erin Dunne

Erin Dunne is a senior studying History, French and International Studies. In her free time she is a drug policy reform advocate and a free speech enthusiast. You can reach her by email at eedunne@umich.edu