Students wonder how free speech lawns are
In the Jan. 10 issue, this story incorrectly stated that students were restricted to certain areas on campus to demonstrate publicly. In fact, the designated areas are for nonUCF-affiliateddemonstrators. Students can assemble virtually anywhere on campus as long as their activities dont interfere with classes or normal activities or infringe upon the rights of other members of theUCFcommunity.
From American flags that represent those who were lost on 9/11 to pictures of aborted fetuses, students may not know what to expect when passing the Free Speech Lawn.
UCF has allotted six areas, known as Free Assembly Areas, around campus where people and groups affiliated and non-affiliated with the university can go to speak their mind. Notable locations include the grass area between Millican Hall and the Mathematical Sciences Building, the Grass Area between the John T. Washington Center and Student Union and between Memory Mall and Classroom Building I.
Some students believe designating locations for free speech infringes on the concept as outlined in the First Amendment.
A free speech area is an oxymoron. If youre limited to a certain area, your speech and your assembly are not free, senior political science major Andrew Green said.
Junior legal studies major German Beard agreed UCF needs more areas for students to voice their opinions.
While the First Amendment Right to freedom of speech and assembly is not absolute, I do believe that there should be more than one official area to make unscheduled demonstrations. A university community thrives under an environment where a great diversity of opinions are voiced freely, Beard said.
Freshman political science major Kayla Cayasso said that at a public university free speech should be protected in all areas.
As a public university, free speech should be protected and even welcome across the entire campus. It would foster better exchange of ideas and growth, which is really the whole point of the college experience, Cayasso said.
Green, on the other hand, said location is the most valuable tool to protest properly.
I think the hallmark of free assembly is portability. You have to go to where the action is and where the decisions are made. If I were protesting a decision by Congress, I would assemble on Capitol Hill. I wouldnt assemble in the middle of a cornfield in Iowa, Green said. UCFs free speech zones effectively puts students in a cornfield in Iowa.
Alternately, Beard said the locations designated for free speech are effectively located.
Organizing demonstrations in the free zone has proved to be an extremely effective medium to communicate a message to the student body. It sits in a high-transit area where students continually pass by and stop in order to listen, and provides an ample space to set up a presentation which may effectively reach out to the students, Beard said.
Others argue free speech lawns are dominated by powerful, non UCF-affiliated voices that trivialize the student voice.
As a freshman, the only utilization of the free speech zone I have seen in my time at the school has been for Brother Micah and his associates, Cayasso said. "I might have a biased opinion because of my short time at UCF, but these zones are being monopolized by those with more power than others.
Professor Cynthia Benson, who teaches American Constitutional Law I, said the free speech areas do not infringe on the First Amendment.
According to Supreme Court rulings over the years, free speech zones are not prohibited by the First Amendment. Nothing in the Constitution is absolute even the First Amendment. Time and place of speech can be regulated, but content is much more protected, Benson said.
At the end of the day, the free speech areas allow students to express themselves without facing repercussions from the university. To learn more about the areas, visit http://www.getinvolveducf.com/useyourvoice.
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