Free speech does not make it OK to be disrespectful; question what you’re exposed to

January 24, 2017

Scribe Staff

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     Milo Yiannopoulos.

     A name that has sparked outrage in the last week, the Breitbart News journalist was invited to visit our campus on Jan. 26 as part of his controversial tour.

     The event, hosted by the UCCS College Republicans and Turning Point USA, has been met with a mix of emotions and protests since its announcement from not only students, but faculty, staff and the Colorado Springs community.

     A statement released by UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak made it clear that the views of Yiannopoulos do not align with the values of the university.

     Additionally, Shockley-Zalabak released in a statement, “… the University of Colorado school system adheres to the freedoms embodied in the United States Constitution, which include the freedom of speech contained in the first amendment.”

     “The University of Colorado does not censor the speaker because it disagrees with his viewpoints.”

     We understand that the law allows anyone to speak at a public university.

     But just because Yiannopoulos’ views fall under the free speech umbrella, doesn’t make what he says about different groups right or OK.

     Free speech is a highly regarded constitutional amendment—and rightly so. The right to disagree with the popular opinion has been historically crucial in promoting necessary change, and allowing anyone, regardless of external characteristics, to have a voice.

     But the right to say whatever we want to does not mean that just anything should be said.

     The law is not equal to what is ethical or moral. We have seen this statement proved true in the past.

     In deciding to cover this event, we’ve questioned whether or not we should give publicity to Yiannopoulos with another platform to spread a harmful, hateful agenda.

     Ultimately, it is our job to report on and cover controversial events such as these.

     If major news outlets like the Washington Post decided to bury Trump’s lewd conversation regarding women released on Oct. 8, we, as journalists and citizens, would be uninformed.

     We hope that our readers can come to the best conclusion possible about a story when presented with the facts. But whether or not we report on Yiannopoulos doesn’t mean students will not rightfully respond with a mix of emotions.

     As college students, we are fortunate to be in a learning environment that we can saturate ourselves with new and interesting viewpoints we may otherwise not have heard.

     But when do we draw the line when those viewpoints prove to be harmful?

     It is our responsibility as both students and citizens to think critically about the rhetoric we are exposed to. In the case of Yiannopoulos, we must be diligent in our efforts to question and analyze rhetoric. Should the university allow a man who spreads a hateful agenda influence the minds on our campus? That answer is up to us as the student body.

     One of the most universally taught truths on a college campus across all majors is the ability to think critically.

     Question your sources. Rethink the obvious. Check your facts. Listen to more than one side of an argument. Keep an open mind. Respect opposing opinions and respect each other as human beings with diverse perspectives and contexts.

     We are encouraged to push an argument, to point out its failings, to counter it with evidence and to follow these same steps with our own arguments to strengthen them.

     No one should be denied the right to speak, but even more important than this, is the right to basic respect and humanity for every sex, gender, orientation, skin color, race, faith, philosophy, size, ability and nationality.

     No one should be publicly denied their humanity.