Use your right of free speech wisely

As Americans we all have common ground on the First Amendment. The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peacefully to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
The Young Americans for Liberty peacefully organized inside the Student Union last week with free speech walls. They believe college students should know their freedom of speech rights, and gave us a chance for catharsis and a chance to sign a petition to protest Southeastern’s free speech policy.
You could write whatever your pretty little mind desired on that piece of white paper hanging over wood frames. For me, I stood there for about 10 minutes reading what others had to say. I loved seeing what people had to say which varied from rational quotes and statements by dignitaries, to the “I’m-18-and-just-got-to-college” mentality; those immature statements made me lose a little faith in humanity, but I digress. Finally, fulfilling my childhood fantasies of writing on walls, my thoughts composed, I made my mark and I departed.  
Walking to my next class I started to think about what rights we really have as students on campus. YAL really had my noggin on overdrive for the rest of the day. University policy on public speech, assembly and demonstrations states students do have First Amendment rights, but those freedoms “are not absolute” while on campus.
Three locations for individuals and organizations to freely assemble include: the steps in front of the Student Union Annex and the grassy area immediately in front of the steps and bound by the sidewalk, the grassy area in front of the Pennington Student Activity Center and the Presidential Plaza area north of the Student Union. You must apply a week in advance through the office of Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs. If approved, you have a two-hour time period to express yourself or your organization’s beliefs. Federal law states that no student can be censored unless there is a clear and present danger.  
Now, this is completely fair when it comes to people actually speaking or creating noise. There needs to be some organization to that. People like David Grantham, the guy who frequents the Student Union and offers money to passers-by if they step on the crate to be questioned about their religious beliefs and admit they are a sinner, should receive permission.
Well, knowing the most peaceful, quiet and harmless way of exercising our free speech rights could get you a fine or banishment from campus is what makes me lose faith in humanity a little more. There is a policy stating we must also apply and gain permission to place flyers around campus or hand them out. The posting of signs or handing out flyers is prohibited, except for “university bulletin boards by individuals and/or organizations.” They are prohibited from doors, windows, hallways, walls of buildings, poles and trees, and advertisements cannot be placed on windshields or “indiscriminately handed out to passers-by.”
For the people who follow this rule, kudos to you, but it should not be there in the first place. What about all the students advertising for roommates? Or people trying to rent houses? Or the people from New Orleans and Lafayette placing invitations to club events on my windshield? Or the people who give free hugs? Do they go through this procedure? It should not matter; the policy goes against all that is right. Everybody’s heart beats for something different: pro-life, pro-war, pro-choice, anti-war, anti-marijuana legalization, partying with or without alcohol. We’re passionate about different world issues and have unique tastes. As long as we express it peacefully there shouldn’t be a problem. It all comes down to tolerance, which can only be achieved through an open mind and education. Make your right to freedom of speech count, and do it respectfully. We are adults after all, aren’t we?