Where does one draw the line with free speech?

By Erik Luna


One day as I was walking back to the E7 building from the A bungalows, I started to get a bit hungry. Seeing that I had to pass by the lunch truck, I figured I would stop by and get a hamburger.

Then what do I happen to see in the free speech area? None other than bloody and grotesque posters of aborted and dismembered fetuses – yeah, I will pass on that hamburger.

This will not be a prolonged verbal assault on the Human Life Alliance, who were the anti-abortion group that were passing out flyers last week in the free speech area, but a plea for human decency.

The only thing that should be mediated upon is the right to eat comfortably without having to look at such sickening images. Yes, their message was received, but at what cost.

Countless students passed by with disgust in their faces, but also others stopped to see what the HLA had to say. There is no denying that their technique to get their message heard was a success. Yet, why subject students to these images, especially right in front of where they eat?

Their ability to use what is guaranteed to them by the first amendment is commendable, yet, as the old saying goes, two can play at that game.

There should be a different approach to this delicate situation.

There have been countless other organizations that have used the free speech area to spread their message. One organization, that uses the free speech area to spread awareness of animal cruelty, displays shocking and uncomfortable images of animals being abused, but they display them in small television monitors and first ask students if they would like to see these images.

The same strategy can be employed in this situation.

As it is stated in the “Free Speech Area Usage form,” “the college has the responsibility to designate time, place, and manner.” It is the “responsibility” of the college to look out for the student’s best interest. If just one person was either offended or bothered by these images, who knows how many more were?

According to Chapter nine, Article nine of the Los Angeles Community College District’s Board of Trustees Board Rule 9902.10, “All persons using the Free Speech Area of a college are expected to monitor the content of their speech such that the expression is not obscene… does not substantially disrupt the orderly operation of the college.”

The topic of abortion is an extremely sensitive subject, there is no denying that, and some may be really bothered by these images. It could even go as far as to disrupt their day. Yet, it could easily be fixed if they were to choose a different approach to spreading their message.

Also, if that solution is not agreeable, the college could simply relocate them to a different location. In the aforementioned board rules it also states that “a Free Speech Area may only be located where there is a normal flow of student traffic with unlimited accessibility.”

The only free speech area on campus at the moment is the one in front of the lunch truck. Although, it was previously by the Husky statue by the stadium parking lot, another area could easily be designated.

In the end it’s a question of human decency. Do not limit free speech, for it would defeat the purpose, but those who do use it – use it with discretion.

As for me, I just hope I can finally eat a hamburger in peace.

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