Students must protect their character

It is up to University students to drown out false attacks on student character.

Luis Ruuska

We are taught from a young age to respect the First Amendment. On campus, however, protesters unethically abused their freedom to speak.

I saw many students looking shocked last week by a small group of religious protesters in front of Coffman Union. Protesters told students — whom they referred to as sinners — that God was angry with us because of our drunkenness, premarital sex and provocative dress.

Where is the line between hate speech and free speech, or a peaceful assembly and one filled with
vicious vitriol?

Of course, these people were well within their legal rights to protest. The University of Minnesota campus is public land, and people have a constitutional right to express their views on campus within legal limits.

However, these protestors did not attack any single group or idea. They blindly attacked an assumed identity of all students. This is not and should not be acceptable.

There is no way for protesters to know how all University students lead their lives. There is no way for them to know what values or beliefs University students adhere to.

The University is home to more than 100 political, religious and social action-oriented student groups. If this doesn’t suggest a student population concerned with not only bettering itself but improving the community as well, then I don’t know what does.

The University should have some authority to step in and protect its students from such unwarranted character assassination.

Realistically, the laws protecting such protesters on campus are unlikely to change. Therefore, it is up to students to protect the collective University identity and show through actions that attacks on our character do not reflect reality.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Words may show a man’s wits but actions his meaning.”

It would be silly to combat attacks on our character with slander of our own, so we must display the values of the University through our actions because they will be loud enough.