The First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Within the past year especially, Americans have taken advantage of this right. Much of the public was outraged at Rick Perry’s campaign commercial in which he boasts about his Christian values. The Occupy Wall Street movement addressed the last two provisions of the First Amendment by inspiring people across the country to come together in solidarity.
A more recent incident took place on April 13 in British Columbia. Though Canada doesn’t fall under the U.S. Constitution, we include it here because this situation could happen anywhere.
Nationalpost.com, a Canadian news website, reported on a controversy started by a student’s photography class project. The photo was of a woman in traditional Islamic dress folding laundry. The controversial aspect was that the woman was holding a bra.
Sooraya Graham, the Muslim-Canadian student who took the photo, told Nationalpost.com, “You often see the stereotype of the veiled woman being oppressed,” she said. “We all wear the same undergarments, do laundry, go shopping. I was leaving it open-ended for others to interpret the photo in their own way.”
What’s more ironic is that Graham wears the niqab herself.
A faculty member felt that the photo was offensive and removed it. The dean of the university came to her aid, defending her right to freedom of expression.
We hope that VSU stands by students in such a situation. By what we’ve observed, VSU works to ensure freedoms of speech and expression. It’s policy.
On page 70 of the student handbook is VSU’s General Public Forum Venue Policy which states, “[VSU] embraces the value of free speech and provides numerous opportunities for free speech. Examples of free speech opportunities include, but are not limited to uncensored: plays, lectures, entertainment, classroom discussions, concerts, art exhibitions and student sponsored programs and activities, which take place at various venues including classrooms, auditoria, and the campus green.”
The University cannot regulate what is said, which means we have freedom of expression.
We can wear T-shirts with sayings. We can hang sheet signs. We can talk to anybody, regardless of sex, color or creed. We have the freedom, and the right, to express ourselves. Use it wisely, but most importantly, just use it.