A free speech wall created and posted by the Carleton Students for Liberty has been swiftly destroyed by a career protester and seventh-year B.A. candidate upset at free speech.
CSL (http://carletonsfl.com/), a non-partisan campus association committed to advancing freedom through individual liberty, purchased and posted the free speech wall in the university’s main centre.
Carleton University, already ranked one of the worst universities for upholding free speech by the 2012 Campus Freedom Index, has been delivered yet another embarrassing blow.
You can see why the rogue student would tear down such a hateful poster. It states things like “end the welfare state” and “legalize freedom” and “I love the CFS” and “education is not a right.”
That’s not to suggest the language was all rosy and cheerful either. There were comments posted about abortion, gay rights, Israeli “apartheid,” and demanding “equality for all.”
And that’s entirely the point. Free speech doesn’t have to be politically correct or cheerful. In many instances, free speech is blunt and can be abrasive. Some people might not “like” to see “Queers are awesome” or “I love my clitoris” or “I love queers and eating pussy!” shoved in their face while walking to or from class, but free speech isn’t about what one would “like” to see on a poster.
But as if it wasn’t disgusting enough to commit such vile acts of vandalism, discrimination, destruction of property, and mischief, the petty criminal didn’t stop there: he openly bragged about it on Facebook.
He claimed his act of “forceful resistance” was in response to that “meaningless platitude” and “abstract ideal” known as free speech.
Most ironically of all, Smith is a gay rights advocate, and a noisy one at that. He regularly takes advantage of his right to free speech to write in the Charlatan or shout a few chants through a bullhorn demanding free tuition. And that’s entirely his right.
As a simple viewing of the free speech wall above shows, it was overwhelmed with pro-gay messages. Why Smith would destroy this wall – the very wall granting his lobby unfettered access to say what they really feel – is beyond me.
What Smith does not have the right to do is destroy private property. The CSL students should press charges for vandalism, destruction of property, and mischief. Then they should conduct a thorough reading of Carleton’s human rights code and have Smith brought before the appropriate tribunal. Smith brags about his actions, and recognizes his consequences.
Smith’s right to free speech does not extend to the right to wilfully (and proudly) destroy private property, any more than I could wilfully destroy one of Smith’s pro-gay posters around campus.
Congratulations, Arun. You’ve made your point in yet another national embarrassment for Carleton University. You’ve shown exactly why free speech is needed: because there are dangerous, criminal thugs willing to forcefully destroy that free speech at every opportunity. Now if only Mr. Smith could show the same commitment to finishing his B.A. within eight years.
Arun Smith's original letter to the Carleton Community is included below:
FOR INFORMATION ONLY:
To the Carleton community:
This evening, acting alone, and in an act of forceful resistance, I removed the Carleton Students for Liberty's "free speech wall" from the Unicentre Galleria. I take full and sole responsibility for this action, I understand that there will likely be consequences, and I am prepared for the imposition of those consequences, however unjust they might be.
In fact, it is in response to injustice that I have found myself with no recourse beyond this. We live in a world built on meaningless platitudes, one where abstract ideology seems to trump considerations for humanity; we rely on buzzwords like "free speech" to help us either ignore or perpetuate the gross suffering that our words and actions can cause. We forget, often deliberately, that the damage we do to individuals in marginalized communities, and to those communities themselves, is inhumane and unjust, and that responding to it with more meaningless platitudes about inclusion and equity is doing nothing to fundamentally alter the status quo. Given this, I consider this action both a moral imperative, and one entirely in line with the mandates of the positions that students on this campus have chosen for me to hold.
Actions and words can be used both to retrench and to challenge the cages, the boxes, the oppression, that we face, but something must be done in order that we might not suffer so much, so often. In organizing the "free speech wall," the Students for Liberty have forgotten that liberty requires liberation, and this liberation is prevented by providing space for either more platitudes, or for the expression of hate. Further, to organize for this "wall" to be erected during our Pride Week, where our communities are supposed to be able to seek liberation and celebrate our diversity, is offensive, ill-considered, and dangerous. The theme of this year's Pride Week is UNAPOLOGETIC, inviting us to refuse to apologize for who we are, and the erecting of this "wall" is but another in a series of acts of violence against we who are forced every day to try and justify who we are, to try and justify our humanity and our being deserving of respect, dignity, and consideration.
We are supposed to be creating safe(r) spaces for ourselves, and for other students, but there can be no safe(r) spaces where there is potential for triggering, the invalidation or questioning of the identities of others, and/or the expression of hatred. Prior to undertaking this action, I contacted Equity Services, who have decided to abandon a commitment to serving students; in fact, they referred me to CUSA, who abandoned a commitment to serving students themselves quite a while ago.
When one has little to no institutional support, and where those who are supposed to protect abrogate or abdicate their responsibilities, there is little recourse beyond acts of resistance. Some students with whom I spoke called the area around where the "wall" stood "a war zone," which underlines the realities of our lives: we are at war, in a war for our own survival, where to exist, we resist, and to resist, we exist.
The time for platitudes is at its dusk, and the time for solidarity with our words and our actions is at its dawn. It is with this sentiment in mind that I take responsibility.
Remorselessly, and with the utmost sincerity,
HBA Human Rights and Political Science: International Relations, minor in Sexuality Studies; expected 2013