UCF students protest shrinking free-speech zones
Although the First Amendment allows for freedom of speech and expression, some students feel as if their speech is limited in free-speech zones on campus.
Students of the Young Americans for Liberty at UCF are standing up for their rights, and reminding others that they have the right to be heard.
On Wednesday, YAL created a free-speech wall in protest of the effects of free-assembly zones. Students were given the opportunity to write their ideas and opinions on the wall, with no censorship.
Brittany Turner, president of YAL at UCF, said the club was prompted to stand up for their rights because of the increase of restriction on free speech.
Two semesters ago, the entire patio in front of the Student Union was used as a free-speech assembly zone. Now, students are limited to only a section of inclined grass.
A senior political science and psychology major, Turner said the club is trying to show other students how unfair assembly zones are on campus.
"As a student, I feel like I'm not valued at this university," she said. "I thought being at a university was a time where you exchange ideas to further your knowledge."
Turner said free-assembly zones start to become a problem when the majority is punished for a minority's actions.
"I thought the First Amendment pertains to UCF as well," Turner said. "Why are we treated like we don't know how to interact with other individuals?"
Students approached the white board that stood in the grass reading "YAL Free Speech Wall" to write what was on their mind.
"Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same," was written on the board by Collin McAliley, a senior business economics and finance major.
McAliley said he believes this quote by George Bernard Shaw explains the importance behind why people want different things.
"You just can't assume that everyone wants the same thing. Life doesn't work that way," McAliley said.
Freshman health sciences pre-clinical major Reagan Allen became a member of YAL just a few weeks ago for this exact reason.
"I feel like I am being discriminated against," Allen said. "I'm hoping we can get enough people to sign the wall and state whatever is on their mind."
From watching various people walk up to the board to express their opinions, Allen said she can agree with some of what is written, but that is not what matters.
"It's not about agreeing with what people are saying; it's about letting them say what they want to say," she said.
Layne Garrett, YAL UCF Secretary, said he agrees with Allen's statement, understanding that words will be written on the board with which not everyone will agree.
"Freedom of expression is what matters in the end," Garrett said.
For students who want to learn about their free-speech rights, there will be an event next Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Burnett Honors College, room 127. Garrett said Constitutional Lawyer Justin Pearson from the Institute of Justice will be present to discuss how people should fight for their rights.