Just Plain Right / Opinion

Free Speech Is Either Free or It’s Not

Professor Mireille Miller-Young’s encounter with pro-life activists on March 4 at UC Santa Barbara’s free speech zone has caused a major uproar among students. Miller-Young has been charged with theft, vandalism and battery, yet as a whole, students at the university support her.

A petition on www.change.org titled “Support and Be in Solidarity with UCSB Professor Miller-Young” created by UCSB Microaggressions has reached nearly 2,000 signatures and continues to increase rapidly. The petition encourages faculty to support Miller-Young and change regulations regarding outside community members. The petition reads, in part:

“We also put pressure on administration and the Office of Student Life to re-evaluate rules and regulations that allow outside community members to so heavily trigger and target students and faculty on this campus.”

The problem is that the purpose of a free speech zone is to allow people to exercise their rights. If the university implements rules on who can or cannot protest, we will no longer have freedom of speech.

The petition also states, “While we support an open campus, we would like the University to prioritize the safety of the UCSB community and not be silent when valued professors are at the center of scrutiny.”

Students who stand in solidarity with Miller-Young want safety within the community, yet these supporters claim a professor should not be held accountable for physically putting hands on a minor. With the role model persona professors have on our campus, it is astounding that students view her actions as permissible. By blatantly attacking an activist in a free speech zone, Miller-Young conveys the message that physical damage is an acceptable way to handle an incident that is disagreed upon by the community.

Many feel “safer” knowing we have the right to exercise free speech, whereas this hypocritical petition suggests that it is safer to have a professor physically put hands on a minor. Our university would be “safer” if professors did not attempt to oppress our rights.

Katie Devlin, a student at UCSB who does not support Miller-Young’s behavior, brings to light how unfair the petition is.

“They talk about prioritizing the safety of our campus involving activists, yet it’s our professor that attacks somebody.” Devlin also stated, “I think it’s just the contrast that she is a feminist professor and stands for protecting women, yet she attacks a young girl.”

With the overwhelming support from students that stand in solidarity with Miller-Young, another petition has been made — titled “Professor Mireille Miller-Young should be fired” — to force UCSB administration to fire Miller-Young. However this petition, also on www.change.org, has less than 300 signatures.

The petition states, “This is about someone who violated the law in several ways, disregarded the idea of freedom of speech, and tarnished the image of the UCSB … Please know that this is not to show support for Pro-Life. This is to show support for our freedom of speech, our laws, and justice.”

With the minute amount of signatures, it is evident that students as a whole are standing in solidarity with Miller-Young. Supporting a professor is one thing, but attempting to add more regulations to a free speech zone and viewing pro-life activists as a safety issue is another one entirely.

Austin Yack thinks speech isn’t free unless it’s free for everybody.

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, April 10, 2014 print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are primarily submitted by students.
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  1. NO PC PoMo says:

    Supporting a proud but blatantly abusive gender bigot (feminist), as a professor no less, shows that this college ‘community’ (so-called) has it’s COLLECTIVE head up it’s totalitarian nether hole.

  2. obeytherulesorgetout says:

    Austin, your poor education is showing through. The Free Speech Movement of the 1960′s to get free speech on UC Campus failed. Read `Subversives’ by Seth Rosenfeld.

    There is no guarantee of free speech on UC Campuses, all speech is regulated by the UC Regents. You may not like that, you may disagree with it, but it is a legal fact.

    And it is a legal fact because Ronald Reagan and California Conservatives wanted it that way.

    • NO PC PoMo says:

      UC and UCSB are legally obligated to protect free speech on campus by the Constitution. The fact that ALL of the violate the Constitution in terms of silencing free speech is the real scandal here. Please visit Free Speech: FIRE for more specifics on free speech and on UC/UCSB’s sorry history of silencing free speech.

  3. Anonymous,

    Actually the professor (allegedly) stole the sign then assaulted the girl while she was trying to get it back.

    The two girls were 21 and 16. Or did you want to know how old the professor is (I don’t know).

    Who is it you think should be in jail?

    • It’s not “alleged.” She was caught on camera by the older sister. She did it, they have proof and she was aided by at least two ignorant, immature little girls.

  4. Yeah can you believe that a PROFESSOR assaulted a teenage girl and then STOLE the sign?? What the actual fuck- how old is she and why isn’t she in jail?

  5. Good article Austin. It’s good to know there is somebody thinking up there at UCSB.

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