(Originally published at The Weal).
Only a couple hours after Carleton University’s Students of Liberty group installed a “free speech” wall on Jan. 21, it was torn down by a freedom of speech crusader and human rights student. No, this isn’t an article from The Onion.
Students had installed the wall in the Unicenter Galleria, one of the most popular spots on campus, in an attempt to foster discussion and allow students to share messages they thought were important. After some messages that LGBT activist and seventh-year undergraduate human rights student (you can’t make this stuff up) Arun Smith disagreed with the words written on the wall, and he tore it down in an act of “forceful resistance” (his words).
According to a YouTube video from the university’s student elections last February, Smith had run for student government on the promise of making “every student’s voice heard.” In response to the backlash from tearing down the wall, Smith tweeted, “Power is a zero-sum game. Some must lose some power, such that others might be empowered. It’s that simple.”
He followed this up by stating, “not every opinion is valid.”
Smith took offense to a message on the wall he read as being intolerant, one stating, “Traditional marriage is awesome.” However, the message was deemed to not be offensive by organizers, and was outnumbered by a number of pro-gay marriage posts.
In a 2012 ranking of Campus Freedom put together by Calgary’s Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, Carleton received an ‘F’ grade for free speech, close to the bottom of the list, due to the student’s association and other bodies at the school preventing pro-life and other groups from protesting.
Unwittingly, in his blatant act of censorship, Smith has drawn national attention by opposing any and all free speech except for his own. It’s an important reminder – while freedom of speech is a right, it’s one that has to be defended. And, unlike Smith and the student’s association at Carleton University, the best way to defend it is not by destroying competing opinions, but rather allowing for open discourse on all issues.
As the Justice Centre’s Freedom Index reads, “core principles of freedom and equality continue to be eroded … by government-funded and government-created entities like Canada’s public universities.” Not to mention their students that have been taught to think in an environment that can often be extremely close-minded. Unfortunately for Smith, his statement that “not every opinion is valid” isn’t quite correct. His opinion, is welcome. His actions, however, are not.
25 Feb 2013 / 0 notes