Editorial Board

In the past two weeks, three incidents involving the fundamental right of freedom of speech occurred on three college campuses across the country. While these incidents fell well within the legal parameters of the law, all three resulted in many unexpected consequences that provoke questions about the nature of our precious first amendment right.

Two weeks ago at the University of Florida, campus police brutally arrested and Tasered a young man after questioning Sen. John Kerry at a town hall meeting where the senator was the featured speaker.

This graphic and jarring auditorium scene in Florida, splashed across television and computer screens across the nation, reminds us of the lawful ramifications of speaking out against the government. The police viciously reprimanded the young man as a crowd watched, essentially unable to do anything against the authority of the police.

Last Friday, in response to this incident, Colorado State University’s student newspaper, “The Rocky Mountain Collegian,” printed an offensive expletive as part of the title for a Bush-bashing editorial.

The actions of the editorial board have forever tarnished the name of the “Collegian.” Instead of writing a well-developed, calculated editorial on President Bush’s actions, the editors of the CSU paper resorted to pure sensationalism in order to pose its views. Journalistic integrity was wholly ignored. As a result, the future of the newspaper and its editor in chief are in jeopardy pending a meeting this week that will determine their fates. The paper also lost thousands of dollars advertising income because of its word choice, which could also threaten the paper’s existence.

And just two days ago, at Columbia University, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke to students about global issues before his meeting with the U.N. Security Council, where he described the United States as selfish, immoral and power hungry to the delegates.

Like Colorado State, the reputation of Columbia University lies in the balance since it essentially hosted an advocate of terrorism on Tuesday. Ahmadinejad obviously embraced the United States’ freedom of speech even though his own government denies this same right to its citizens. The actions of Columbia University do not send a positive message to the world; they went beyond providing a stage for self-expression for Ahmadinejad and ended up promoting his uniformly expected hateful ideology.

Freedom of speech does not mean that you can evade its outcomes. As young people on a college campus where we have the ripest opportunity to learn and develop, we must voice our opinions however controversial they are. However, these recent incidents at universities like Villanova demonstrate what the abuse of this right will produce. We have inherited the right to speak freely, but we must not abuse it. We must gratefully embrace its opportunities but at the same time be wary of its consequences.