EDITORIAL: U. fosters speech, but more is needed
Conversations on campus should be beneficial to community
Rutgers University can be considered many different things in terms of its atmosphere on campus. But one thing that the University’s students may not realize is how advanced the University is in terms of garnering conversation and speech on campus by students. Sometimes it takes an outside look to realize how progressive the University is.
According to The College Fix, the Cornell University Assembly attempted to hold a forum to open up conversation about Cornell’s speech code. The word “attempted” is used here, because representatives from the school stated how “disheartening” the "lack of attendance" at the forum was. Representatives from the university said this was telling of how uninvolved some students are when it comes to implementing change.
A similar type of event was held here at Rutgers as part of national Free Speech Week two weeks earlier. Although this event focused more on speakers talking to students about hate speech and possible solutions to it, its adequate attendance is a testament to how students at Rutgers are very much involved in these matters. The same can even be said about the “Unsafe Space” tour that took place earlier this month. Although the members of the panel advocated the avoidance of analyzing racial identity and politics, the fact that many students, either champions or opponents of the things being said, showed up to voice their opinions is demonstrative of the fact that Rutgers' students are active when it comes to things that they care about. And when one looks at situations such as the one at Cornell (although this one occurrence is not completely representative of the university), it makes one feel as though Rutgers is doing something right.
But as always, much more can be done.
Yes, Rutgers succeeds in allowing students to speak their minds, but this is just the first step in creating a campus that is welcoming to all. Getting students to speak up is good, but this is only true if the conversation had is one that is meant to move the University forward and improve it.
This specification is important because although Rutgers may be motivating more conversation among its community than other institutions, not all of what is being said should be said.
The conversation about what types of discussions should be “permitted” is always tricky, as many consider this an infringement of our First Amendment rights. But much of what is happening at Rutgers has indicated that some rules are in need of being specified.
If an institution that is known for encouraging conversation is one that is still investigating a professor for anti-Semitic posts online or being plastered in white supremacy advocacy posters, then there is an obvious need for action to be taken. Although Cornell’s debate did not bring out the turnout it had hoped for, its decision to bring the conversation of what type of speech should be allowed is actually a step in the right direction. It is also something that the University should perhaps look into doing for its own campus.
Rutgers has a diverse campus that it has always been proud of, and it is a great feat that so many students feel comfortable to speak among people who are different from them. But with this feat comes responsibility for the University to ensure that these students continue to feel comfortable. It is also the University’s responsibility to make sure that the speech that is being spread is one that is beneficial to both the University and its constituents. If Rutgers can succeed at this, then it will really be a spearhead in the academic world.