by NICK MITCHELL
I attended the Free Speech Forum which was hosted by YAF (Young Americans for Freedom) on the evening of the 25th.
The first topic of discussion was whether or not TPUSA should be on campus, and to open this section, Capps had TPUSA’s social media chair, Katie Moon, discuss her story of the events that occurred for TPUSA on the night of the senate meeting about TPUSA. Moon said that TPUSA met beforehand in Meredith, where they passed a large group of students on the way to the library for the senate meeting, and recalled feeling intimidated by their presence. Once the meeting started, Moon stated that there was a music group attempting to get approval from senate, and that they passed quickly without difficulty.
Once TPUSA had the chance to give their brief, senate moved into an executive session, and the Drake Comrades refused to leave. After Joe Campos briefly talked to the comrades, he moved senate to Old Main, where the meeting resumed. Since it was an exec session, all phones had to be put in a basket and were removed from the room, where senate asked the members of TPUSA questions for around 45 minutes. They were then asked to leave while senate deliberated for 45 minutes to an hour, until Nick and Ian came out of the room to inform TPUSA that they were denied as an RSO.
Following that, we went into the first section regarding the standards of how an organization should be admitted or rejected from campus, and whether or not TPUSA’s rejection was really imposing on their free speech.
As far as criteria for the registration of student organizations goes, it was thought that an applying group should differ from existing groups in a significant way, and that senate should still be the ones to confirm them. Having the board of trustees choose which organizations to allow is much worse, as students are much farther disconnected from them than senate.
The next section discussed the university’s role in regulating speech, what the status of free speech was, and whether there were any threats to speech. In the small group Moon bemoaned the overwhelming liberal majority in classes, saying that she felt shut down any time she expressed a conservative viewpoint. When this point was brought up in the large group, however, Capps pointed out that he never felt this way. He recognized the liberal majority but said that it wasn’t unique to Drake or even college campuses.
In many places conservative voices are the minority, so any asserted point needs to be delivered in a respectful way and backed up, rather than being tossed out in an aggressive or dismissive way that comes across baseless. Following this, it was mentioned by some of the minority students in attendance that a conservative’s viewpoint is not innate, whereas ethnicity and sexual orientation, among other things, are. A conservative being alone in class is not an infringement upon their free speech, but if someone feels unsafe due to who they are being threatened by another viewpoint, that is not just an infringement of free speech, but an infringement on that student’s existence. This began deviating into what hate speech is, and was tabled until the next section.
Following this, it was mentioned by some of the minority students in attendance that a conservative’s viewpoint is not innate, whereas ethnicity and sexual orientation, among other things, are. A conservative being alone in class is not an infringement upon their free speech, but if someone feels unsafe due to who they are being threatened by another viewpoint, that is not just an infringement of free speech, but an infringement on that student’s existence. This began deviating into what hate speech is, and was tabled until the next section.
In terms of any threats to free speech, most of the students agreed that Drake didn’t do much to get in the way of free speech. As a private institution, they could outright ban any speech that they wanted to, however, they allow for platforms for all voices to be heard. It’s only when threats and hate speech get involved that Drake steps in.
The final section was in regards to whether free speech was a problem in the US as a whole, and whether hate speech should be protected under free speech. At the end of this session, it was widely agreed that Drake didn’t do anything to limit free speech of conservatives. It’s only because many students feel like certain conservative views limit their right to existence that they are met with such backlash. Denying TPUSA isn’t an attack on free speech, it’s protecting the students who would otherwise feel threatened and unsafe by TPUSA’s presence on campus.
Free speech may be threatened, but it is certainly not conservative voices that are being threatened. It is those of minority students who are not accurately represented in the places it matters most. The biggest issue with the framing of the entire forum is that it was aimed to seem like TPUSA was under attack, but them using free speech as their defense is only defending the indefensible. The anxiety that conservatives claimed to feel on campus is not unique to them, but is found on the minds of minority students constantly.
A conservative view is just that, a view. It is not painted on your skin, it is not written in your genetics. A black student can be targeted from anywhere, and may always feel unsafe because of people like TPUSA who call for racially unfair action against them. With TPUSA’s presence on campus, not only are some students rights to free speech stifled by them, but also their right to existence is in the crosshairs.
With TPUSA’s RSO status denied, conservative voices are still heard from in other areas, in other organizations. There is no reason to believe conservative free speech is under attack, and to say so is lunacy. Giving dangerous, hateful voices the same level as free speech is disrespecting everyone who is the target of hateful speech, and disrespectful to the idea of free speech as a whole.