I have read several articles written in response to Alec Mouhibian’s column concerning the issue of free speech and a publication’s right to exercise its First Amendment rights (“Private Dancer: Clearing the Angry Air,” Daily Nexus, May 5). I firmly agree with the quote, “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” and I would defend Mouhibian’s right to say anything he likes, whether I personally agree with it or not. However, what is uttered from an individual’s lips and what is published in a university-supported newspaper — which is representative of a university’s students, faculty, staff, alumni, etc. — are two separate things.
I believe that what upsets many individuals the most about Mouhibian’s column is not that he is exercising his freedom of speech, as he has the right to do. It isn’t even that he is attacking the existence of groups and organizations in which the main objective is to promote equality, safety and understanding, and to provide support for individuals who have been victimized. What is the most upsetting is that he is doing it through a newspaper that bears the name “University of California, Santa Barbara.”
To question the effects and tactics of feminist movements/groups and gender-appreciative organizations is one thing – but an opinion article that attacks victims of rape, questions their pain and validity and makes light of violent, criminal acts serves only to promote ignorance and continued violence and is not something that should be published on behalf of a university. What kind of benefit or social improvement comes from Mouhibian’s column in which rape is trivialized? How is a rape victim going to feel when they pick up their university newspaper only to find an article claiming that rape is merely the result of “natural urges” and alludes to rape victims as being either confused or liars?
If the Nexus chooses to put no limitations on what opinions are published and what people and organizations are questioned or attacked, then is it appropriate for the Nexus to publish an opinion that condemns homosexuality? Should the Nexus publish an article that deprecates the Black Student Union or calls for the reinstatement of slavery? Should the Nexus publish an opinion column that calls for the repeal of the 15th Amendment, which allows an individual of any race or color to vote, or the 19th, which gives women the right to vote? If an individual wanted to submit an opinion column that supported the Holocaust, should it be published by the Nexus? How would any of these opinion articles benefit our society, and what would publishing them say about our university and the people associated with it? How would these opinions, published on behalf of the university, affect individuals when their history, struggles or victimization is belittled and trivialized? Should an opinion be published simply because a right to publish it exists?
A degree of unprofessionalism in the Nexus already exists, but after the publication of Mouhibian’s column, I am embarrassed for our university and for a newspaper that is supposed to be representative of an entire campus community. To say that all opinions should be publishable, regardless of its effect on individuals, can do more damage to a university than good.
I am disappointed by those individuals who place strength in ignorance, and are either too selfish or too ignorant to be fully aware of the repercussions and effects their words and actions have on others. We should and do have the right to say, believe and write about what we please — this is the easy part. But when the words are harmful and destructive toward victims of rape, as well as the safety and equality of women in general, perhaps they should not be published by a university newspaper!
Tara Owens is a UCSB alumna.