Student Censorship of Free Speech Wall Calls Values into Question

Walker Wall has always been a public outlet for student opinion. Technically, no one is supposed to regulate the wall; students post their thoughts and eventually other students write over them with their own ideas and advertisements.

The beauty of Walker Wall is that when students disagree with a statement on the wall, they have the freedom to express their own point of view anywhere on the wall—even by covering over the previous statement with one of their own.

At the start of the school year, however, an incident involving the wall called both the purpose of the wall and the values behind it into question.Some students painted three quotations on the wall. They included a statement by Anthony D’Angelo, as well as a few words from Thomas Sowell. The longest quote, written between the other two, is lost to memory. All three were written on the same subject: political correctness.

The quote by Sowell said, “In this era of political correctness, some people seem unaware that being squeamish about words can mean being blind to realities,” and the D’Angelo quote read, “Transcend political correctness and strive for human righteousness.”

Two of the quotes were eventually covered by a Motley ad, but the D’Angelo quote was not. Instead, it was whited-out—poorly covered over with white paint. No ad, idea, thought, or opinion was painted in its place.

The irony of censoring an opinion on the free speech wall is rich. The purpose of Walker Wall is freedom of speech, and, by extension, freedom of opinion. For students to censor an opinion they disagree with, but to offer no alternative, is to proclaim that freedom of speech and of opinion are not valuable. It is also a statement that certain viewpoints are not acceptable, and that, by extension, campus dialogue is not important.

If students cannot expect to freely express themselves on an anonymous wall, how can they be expected to freely express themselves in a “safe space,” or a newspaper, let alone in any sort of inter-personal campus dialogue?

Censoring the quote assumes that there is only one right way to think. This is a dangerous line to tow: would these same students condone banning books—a mirror-image gesture often made from the other side of the ideological spectrum?

The real irony, though, is that the students who covered the quote value political correctness itself above all of these things: freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, and campus dialogue.

No one could have made Sowell’s point better.

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