Panel discusses free speech

Panel members, comprised to discuss free speech as it relates to campus issues, agreed they were opposed to filters on campus computers.

The panel also debated the issue of free speech relating to advertisements The Daily Eastern News ran, the Student Speech Code and issues of speech and free expression causing violence.

The Civil Rights Office Thursday sponsored the panel consisting of four speakers. The speakers were: Joseph Barron, of general counsel; Shane Miller, director of forensics in speech communication; Annette Samuels, journalism professor; and James Tidwell, journalism professor.

Panel members said there would be no benefits to adding filters to campus computers.

Barron said the filters are “a waste of time and money.”

Miller said software companies are bias to what would be considered inappropriate for students to access and are impossible to rely on.

“(Filtering software) is tremendously ineffective in what they do,” Miller said

Tidwell gave an example as to why he was opposed to the filters.

“If someone wants to roast a turkey and they type in turkey breast, they won’t be allowed because of the filter.”

An audience member questioned a concern with filtering outgoing e-mail from campus computers. The consensus of the panel was that of one’s right to privacy.

Also, it is the students’ responsibility on what they do, not the university’s. However, Barron said university computers are Eastern property, and students do not have a legal right to privacy.

Potential problems could arise with increased security, like filtering, so there also is increased liability, the panel said.

In an issue of free speech, advertisements that ran in The Daily Eastern News were brought up. These ads, such as ones sponsored by Yahoo! and Steam Tunnels, caused certain groups and students to be uncomfortable.

Tidwell said the university is not liable and, in turn, is not responsible for these cases. The university does not control the content of the paper and, therefore, is not responsible.

All publications have the right to say no to running an advertisement, Samuels said.

Barron said although something may offend some, it does not offend everyone.

“Ethics and good taste are a whole different issue,” Barron said.

If people do not like something, they can complain, Samuels said.

The panel also discussed the Student Speech Code. As stated in the code, the only way to punish a student regarding the code would be if a student’s speech “disrupts class, harms others or (is a) breech of the peace,” Barron said.

“(People) don’t have the right to come in my office and give speeches,” Barron said.

The panel also went on to discuss that everyone has the right to speak freely as long as it doesn’t go beyond speech limitations. However, if a crowd reacts violently to a speech, it is the crowd’s fault, not the speakers.

Tidwell said verbal assault is against the code but is difficult to prove.

“If (the action) is verbal and not outrageous, there’s not much that can be done,” Barron continued.

To accuse anyone for verbal assault, people have to prove the act is extreme enough to go beyond normal annoyances, Tidwell said.

Stemming from the subject of violence was a proposed situation of a group of students wearing racially negative t-shirts. The panel agreed that by just wearing a t-shirt, nothing could be done.

Just wearing the t-shirts could be considered individual expression, Barron said.

Everything to be done with free speech issues that may arise on campus, such as filtering and offensive material, are best to be fought back with the response of the students, Samuels said.