First Amendment goes to school

Students and universities test the limits and remind us why we have rights.

Students amassed in protest Monday at Tehran University in Iran against a speech given by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The students were rallying for the freedom of three student activists who have been jailed since May after they voiced their opposition to Ahmadinejad. This event comes as a reminder of the flurry of hotly-debated free speech issues that have tested the limits of the First Amendment at university campuses nationwide – something we see as a good trend on campus as we segway into a very important political year. These trends should be encouraged in a proper manner, and the government and other institutions should respect them.

Students have the right to learn and hear the opinions of those in power, and also have the forums of discussion to hear the dissenting views. This is why Ahmadinejad’s visit to Columbia University was not only merited, but an important benchmark to show the rest of the world’s universities how our educational system is run. Unfortunately, some in our government, such as Republican candidate Duncan Hunter, have denounced Columbia’s decision, even threatening to eradicate further federal funding of the university. However, the United States is a country where we all have the right to express and learn.

In another such event, the opinions page editor at the Colorado State student paper almost lost his job after he chose to run a questionable editorial that contained four words: “Taser this: F*** Bush.” The editorial came after the tasing and arrest of a student at a political speech at the University of Florida last month, which aroused many questions of free speech and police response. Although we find this action in poor taste, the editorial was in defense of our fundamental right. It asserts the radical idealism of free speech. It lingers as a reminder of how powerful the First Amendment is, and is a good example of how those who exercise it should be protected.

The jailed Tehran University students should remind us just how much we have to take for granted in this country. We should continue to responsibly utilize the First Amendment, and make sure that our country stays one in which this is encouraged.