Small free speech zones
May 8, 2002 10:27 AM   Subscribe

Small free speech zones on public college campuses seem incongruous. A more-carrot, less-stick solution might be a free speech zone that was indoors, with seating, like part of this was. Maybe then, fewer people would want to demonstrate elsewhere. This would probably ony work if people regularly came to listen and debate.
posted by engelr (9 comments total)
By all that's holy: Carrot. Stick. They are not opposite things, they go together.

When sitting on an obstinate mule, you take the stick and attach the carrot to the end of it to dangle in front of said mule. The mule walks forward to get the carrot, which remains permanently (a la Tantalus) out of reach, and so it eventually hauls you and your load to your destination, at which time you may or may not give it the carrot. Whether or not this actually works, I'll leave to the farmers. But that's the origin -- surely you're familiar with the concept.

"Carrot and stick" refers to the provision of an incentive, real or decoy. It does not refer to beating the hell out of some poor jackass.
posted by waldo at 12:03 PM on May 8, 2002

But.. but... I thought the whole friggin’ country was a “free speech zone.”
posted by mimi at 12:15 PM on May 8, 2002

Speaker's Corner at Hyde Park, London. Every city should have one...
posted by feelinglistless at 12:57 PM on May 8, 2002

By all that's holy: Carrot. Stick. They are not opposite things, they go together.

Probably not. The modern conflation of carrot or stick draws on the (cartoon) image of sitting on a mule and dangling a carrot in front of it from a stick.

This is not how one uses a mule.

A mule is a pack animal and is usually laden with stuff. The motivation for moving the mule is on a punishment/reward axis. You can either entice the mule with the carrot in one hand, or beat it with a stick in the other.

This same fear/desire or pain/pleasure response is noted in men. Though I don't know who would load all their stuff on a man. It's my experience that they make rather poor pack animals.
posted by ahughey at 1:02 PM on May 8, 2002

Oh mimi, where you been the last few years? Certainly not at any big GOP or Democratic event, because they have certainly been cordoning people off into tight spots. This has been going on generally for a long time (at least since the Chicago Democratic party convention in '68) for the sake of 'safety.' Check the convention coverage of 2000 for more examples.
posted by engelr at 1:27 PM on May 8, 2002

The OED, and alt.usage.english, agree with the reward vs. punishment interpretation. As does Winston Churchill: The Italian donkey shall be forced out of the alliance with Germany, from both ends, with a carrot and a stick.

mimi: Not private property. The government has no brief to restrict or require speech using someone else's spot of grass -- or CAT5 cable. Can I put my political sign on your lawn? Can you make the New York Times print your mailbox bombing manifesto? Can you force me, as a blogger, to publish your rebuttal to all I say?
posted by dhartung at 1:34 PM on May 8, 2002

As noted by the article, the FSU administration, notably Sandy D'Alemberte, is far more concerned about the opinions of the alumni than the needs and concerns of the students.

Sandy is often paraded about as a champion of Free Speech, but his actions tell a different story. For instance, there's the student who wrote an unflattering letter to the local Tallahassee paper in 1996 regarding class sizes and parking.

Sandy & Co. were incensed. How dare a student criticize The University! The administration put so much pressure on him he eventually retreated behind a wall of silence and refused to talk about it. Although many other Florida papers picked up the story, the spin control won out. Sandy got several guest editorials and eventually smoothed things over with the donors.

Then there's the FSU libraries. They reserve the right to search anyone's bag when leaving the library. And by anyone, they mean everyone. There even was a giant (at least 4 ft x 6 ft) reminder in the lobby before you left so you wouldn't forget who owns you.

As for the speaker's corners at FSU, they're more places to put people who the administration doesn't want to worry about. They're contained and relatively harmless there. This is partially in reaction to alumni displeasure and partially from the concern over protesters disrupting classes.

Virtually all of the FSU administration's actions are in reponse to pacifying the donors. USF in Tampa is heading down a similar route, especially under Judy Genshaft. See the recent Al-Arian/OReilly controversy for a taste.

The state of free speech (and a liberal arts education in general) is in serious question at many state universities, particularly in Florida. Many suggest this is part of the commercialization of education or at least the professionalization of university education. The trend is continuing but sadly most students seem complacent enough to just roll over and ignore it, hoping this won't hurt intefere with graduation.
posted by ahughey at 1:36 PM on May 8, 2002

Dhartung, as usual you miss the point, especially since public college campuses are specifically listed in the original post.

If a completely private university or college that takes not one red cent of public money from federal or state governments wants to crush free speech with the proverbial jackboot, I guess your argument might apply ( but not in the U.S.A. that I believe in).

I thought that colleges and universities were supposed to be bastions of free and legal expression. I agree with ahughey that this is probably an effort to keep the alumni happy. Got to keep that money machine rolling!

The really sick part is that so many people are so apathetic as to not give a damn.

The First Amendment doesn't just apply to politically correct speech.

Here's a link worth mentioning:

The 2002 Jefferson Muzzles

Lots of schools listed, huh?
posted by mark13 at 4:30 PM on May 8, 2002

mark13, I'll pick and choose my own damn points, thank you very much. If they happen to disagree with your indymedia worldview you'll just have to suck it up.

A university may be public, but its campus remains the private property -- of the public institution. The critical precedent remains Hazelwood v Kuhlmeier, a 1988 case involving a high school newspaper. Indeed, the decision seems to be the very basis for the creation of 'free speech zones' themselves:

School facilities may be deemed to be public forums only if school authorities have by policy or by practice opened the facilities for indiscriminate use by the general public, or by some segment of the public, such as student organizations. If the facilities have instead been reserved for other intended purposes, communicative or otherwise, then no public forum has been created, and school officials may impose reasonable restrictions on the speech of students, teachers, and other members of the school community.

Schools that create 'free speech zones' are reserving the right to exercise private property rights on the remainder of the campus.

The main brake on publicly financed schools is prohibition against discrimination based on speech content, e.g. religious or political expression. See Rosenberger v University of Virginia for how that one turned out. It ties back to the content-neutrality provisions in Police Department of Chicago v. Mosley, because as a government institution, it cannot pick and choose which speech is free.

Still, the university would retain the right to mandate rules on its campus for when, where, and how that speech may be expressed. An 11pm curfew, for instance, on noisy demonstrations -- as long as it were enforced on all groups -- would be perfectly legal. Similarly they could ban demonstrations on parts of the campus -- and arbitrary rules are actually better than selectivity here, from a constitutional point of view. (For the same reason that a 'private road' is typically gated off for at least one day a year, to preserve it from become a public way.) Grow a bed of rare flowers in front of the administration building, put up police tape so people don't cut across the grass, mark off an area for free speech in the gravel parking lot behind the chemistry lab, etc. -- all perfectly legal and constitutional.

Now, would I be disputing the principle that maybe college administrators should be more open-minded and tolerant of the proto-adults to whom they perpetually cater? Of course not. But constitutionally, they have a pretty strong case. The First Amendment is not universal -- it is a proscription on the government and its relationship to the public. Many people completely miss this very simple point.
posted by dhartung at 7:49 PM on May 8, 2002

« Older 16thandmission: Urban Data Stories   |   Pro-life protester wins settlement. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments