Rutgers students discuss free speech zones
In an effort to have student voices heard, Rutgers University offers designated free speech zones across campus.
Rutgers free speech zones are designated public spaces on campus where students may hold public forums such as rallies or candlelight vigils, sell merchandise and services and promote certain ideas, according to www.thefire.org.
Many students have not heard about these areas, said Sam Hornilla, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. She has never reserved one herself.
Free speech zones are only useful if they are controlled, Hornilla said.
“I think it’s a good thing if it’s controlled," she said. "It’s only a good thing if it’s not malicious or violent or doesn’t turn malicious in any way."
Anyone that wants to hold a public forum should file a Public Forum Notification Form with the Student Involvement Office, according to their website.
There are various designated free speech area locations on campus. On the College Avenue campus, locations include the steps between Brower Commons and Stonier Hall and the Records Hall courtyard.
The zones are in the middle of the Newell Apartments on Cook campus and the patio of behind the Livingston Student Center.
On Busch campus, free speech zones can be found on the lawn close to the Allison Road Classroom Building and in front of the School of Engineering. On Douglass campus, the patio on the Nichol Avenue side of the Douglass Student Center is also a free speech zone.
Any organization can hold a public forum and they are encouraged to fill out the form, though it is not necessary, according to the website.
Hate speech will occur, but the zones are still good for students, said Mike Mantz, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior.
“I think it’s a good idea, because everyone is entitled to their own opinion and their own ideas, and should be able to share it with people in a group," he said. "You’d like to think they wouldn’t use the space to promote hate speech and that people have some sort of social awareness, but that’s probably part of what would happen."
But others are more positive about the free speech zones.
People are inherently good, and hate speech won’t happen in these spaces, said Shyama Shah, a School of Engineering first-year student.
“I think it’s nice to have a place like that so other people can connect with each other, and I’d like to think there’s a solution to every problem,” she said.
Sanjana Chandrasekharan is a first year School of Arts and Sciences student majoring in Political Science. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.