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Thursday, May 13, 2021
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Editorial: The Forgotten First Amendment

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On Wednesday, signs containing positive messages were hung on the trees near Mitchell Hall.

Guest Contributor

While many Americans desperately cling to their right to free speech, we often fail to utilize another privilege afforded to us by the First Amendment: the right to assemble. Words can make waves, but they can easily be washed away by a storm of impassioned individuals united under a common belief or goal.

I love a good protest, especially ones that happen here at UD. Doesn’t necessarily matter to me what the protest is about; there is something notable about a group of students and community members sacrificing time from their schedules to congregate on campus.

This act is particularly noteworthy on our campus. Many would agree that our student body is not the most engaged, in terms of political or social justice causes. Student groups struggle to maintain regular attendance among their membership at meetings, while academic departments frequently seem desperate to fill seats at guest lectures. Bottom line: it can be difficult to get UD students to attend non-mandatory extracurricular activities. This is why I am pleasantly surprised whenever I see a protest come to fruition.

To participate in a protest requires courage. Participants publicly stand beside peers–often friends, but sometimes strangers–as the silent majority walks past and merely observes. They all expose themselves to potential judgment and criticism, yet they stand together. I deeply admire all the peers of mine who have chosen to exercise this right in the many social movements that have manifested in recent years.

Until this week, protesters at UD have typically been treated with respect or impartiality. Unfortunately, Katie Pavlich’s visit and the protest surrounding it incited a different response. While the protest itself was peaceful, members of the UD community (including myself) faced attacks on social media by Pavlich and her followers, condemning us for voicing our opinions of the event and for supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. As if that weren’t discouraging enough, what appeared to be a racist display of nooses appeared in front of Mitchell Hall last night, not 24 hours after the peaceful protest had been held in that very location.

I fear that this perceived act of hatred and intolerance may deter students in the future from organizing and engaging in protests. While the display was deemed by authorities as the remnants of decorations and therefore not a hate crime, I’m still worried that the already small percentage of students willing to assemble will grow discouraged and dwindle. On the contrary, I would hope that this incident highlights the sheer magnitude of attention (whether it be positive or negative) that protests can provide for a cause.

As our school makes headlines this morning, I would encourage members of the UD
community to utilize all aspects of our First Amendment rights. Share posts on social media to raise awareness. Use the hashtags #BlackLivesMatter and #TheRealUD to stay connected with the movement. Physically meet up with your classmates in a coffee shop to engage in constructive conversations. Join the UD community at Mitchell Hall this afternoon.

There is power in numbers. Keep standing together, UD.

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  1. Sarah got this so right, took the words right out of my mouth. I’m very proud of the displays of solidarity on the green both Monday and Wednesday this week, and I hope UD continues the trend of becoming a more vocal and active campus because there is so much work to be done and now is a particularly great time to make the most of opportunities for positive change. Buck apathy, get engaged, get demonstrating. Organize, attend a rally. Attend town hall meetings, Faculty Senate meetings, public fora, guest lectures. Do your part to make what you want a reality.

  2. Ms. Fulton seems to think that the first amendment only applies to her speech. She has the right to assemble and make statements. Others have the right to voice opinions of that assembly. Both easily fall under the umbrella of public discourse.

  3. “members of the UD community (including myself) faced attacks on social media by Pavlich and her followers, condemning us for voicing our opinions of the event and for supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.”

    There is no “right to say whatever I want without criticism.” Free speech goes both ways.

    And you should be thankful for that, because otherwise you would not have the right to criticize Pavlich.

  4. We’re not allowed to have speakers who don’t support the Black Lives Matter movement but it’s okay to have “Resist White Supremacy” signs? I think it’s great that we allow protests, but like everybody said above, freedom of speech should go both ways. If there was a speaker coming to campus with opposite views, would the other side be allowed to protest and have support from the president of UD? Highly doubt it. Also, these protestors want to get rid of all future speakers who “think like” Katie Pavlich. That’s not very first amendment-like.


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