UCSB is a “Free Speech Zone.” Technically. Or is censorship being practiced, especially in regard to the recent chalking around campus? All right, so perhaps writing political statements in chalk in front of the Arbor and in front of the UCen isn’t technically allowed by campus policies. But how many times has this been overlooked before without any complaint? An officer I talked to just after the chalking was halted mentioned that, in the last 20 years, he has never seen chalking in front of the Arbor to be an issue. His impression was that it was a Free Speech Zone. Why now? Why did UCSB choose this particular event to begin enforcing this forgotten policy? Was it because the writing was offensive? Phrases seen around campus could have been attributed to a “Free Tibet” rally, or any anti-war protest. Some read “Free Palestine,” “End The Occupation in Gaza,” “600 + Dead, 4,000 + Casualties 90 percent Civilians,” and things similar to that. There were also chalk outlines of bodies with various ages, representing those in Gaza.
The complaints against the chalking, and the reason people called in to have it removed, was because they found it disturbing. Disturbing? I think anything can arguably be disturbing to someone. But isn’t that the point of speaking out? Pushing buttons just slightly, even to make people a little disturbed? If people aren’t disturbed by the events in Gaza, the humanitarian crisis and the rising number of deaths and casualties, then when will there be a voice speaking against it? It is the fact that this violence is disturbing that Gaza needs our voices.
The seemingly pointed choice to enforce this no-chalking rule now feels like censorship. I would like to argue that this is inhibiting our campus as the Free Speech Zone it claims to be.