It's Time, Once Again, to Defend Free Speech

Robb McFadden is the president of the Berkeley College Republicans and Kelso G. Barnett is the publisher of the California Patriot. Respond at [email protected]





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For years free speech has been under attack at UC Berkeley. Now it's time to defend it.

In the fall of 2000, guest speaker Daniel Flynn was shouted down by an angry mob of people as he tried to talk about the facts of the Mumia Abu Jamal case. A year ago, David Horowitz made national headlines when The Daily Californian apologized for printing his advertisement criticizing reparations for slavery. Just a few months ago, thousands of issues of the Daily Cal were stolen and destroyed by students outraged over a controversial cartoon. And now, the office of the Berkeley College Republicans has been broken into and the entire press run of the California Patriot has been stolen.

As leaders of the Berkeley College Republicans and California Patriot, this is extremely frustrating not only because our office was broken into and our property was stolen, but also because it represents a form of thought-policing tactics unimaginable on the campus where the free speech movement was born. More troublesome, however, is that these events do not come as a surprise because it's happened before and it will likely happen again.

Students have heard the university pay lip service to the importance of diverse perspectives and unhindered expression, but in recent years it's been all talk and no walk.

If the university truly supports free speech it must act to defend it. If there is to be a free exchange of ideas on this campus, the university cannot sit idly by as thousands of publications are stolen year after year. Now is the time for the university to not only talk about free speech, but to defend its ideals, which should be an essential part of every college campus.

We call upon Chancellor Berdahl and his administration to pursue individuals who undermine free speech through actions that violate state law and campus regulations-both now and in the future. This sort of felonious conduct should not be tolerated, and we feel that it is the university's responsibility to make this a safe academic environment for all students and all perspectives.

Purchasing an advertisement in the Daily Cal condemning these acts and pleading for people to get along will not be good enough. The administration has done that in the past and has seen little change. To defend free speech is to remove any presence on campus that undermines this guiding principle.

Whether it be through punishing the leaders of offending student groups, the withdrawal of university and student monies going to these groups or individuals, or ultimately, arrests and prosecution, there must be consequences. These campus marauders have been able to run roughshod over any university regulation, law, or policy for decades. Consequences must be dealt not only to punish the offenders, but also to set an example that this kind of sanctioned thought theft will no longer be tolerated.

As Mario Savio said in December of 1964 when discussing free speech at UC Berkeley, "In our free-speech fight at the University of California, we have come up against what may emerge as the greatest problem of our nation-depersonalized, unresponsive bureaucracy." Mario, we know what you mean. Some things never change.

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