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Monday, Mar 4, 2024

Student Asserts Right to Free Speech

Author: [no author name found]

Driving back from dinner Sunday night, I had to go through the town of Middlebury around 6 p.m. Something was different on this Sunday, however, and it was then I rolled down my window and turned off the music so I could hear the shouts of protests against Ari Fleischer's upcoming speech at Mead Chapel. Confusion, more than any other emotion, overwhelmed me because I simply could not understand these citizen's motivation to stand, huddled in the pouring, freezing rain, so that they could hold up signs and rally each other's spirits against the allegedly war-supporting Fleischer.
He works for President Bush and it appears that we may be going to war with Iraq — a very frightening notion. I think the thought of war over oil or faulty inspections would be horrific, and I am even more frightened by the thought that Bush might do it just to help our economy.
But President John McCardell noted in his short address that while by law there is freedom of speech, there also is a "freedom to listen." It's important to remember that while what Fleischer may have to say might be disagreeable or controversial, he has a right to say it and we have a right to hear it. On the same level, these protesters have the right to assert their opinion under the same clauses, which they did. Mead Chapel on Sunday night was truly a picture.
Which leads me to my concluding assertion about freedom of speech on the Middlebury campus. We are a campus that adores our liberties; we have student activity groups for almost everyone, and we get along in a way that makes everything flow in a melodic interplay of conflict and harmony. That's why I love it here — because the Middlebury administration and students will gladly address your view, no matter how controversial.
You might know from my past articles that many have been over dramatized, controversial and have also spurred varied responses. I like it this way, and so should you. Because when our campus loses the power to support controversy we become a bumbling group of drones who only want to hear what will be received with concurrence from everyone, then that's when we've truly lost freedom of speech.
My articles have taken advantage of the freedom of speech amendment. I ask that we keep it this way. If you hate my opinions, write in and say so. If you have something controversial to say, write in and say so. Our campus newspaper should be a forum where students can voice their opinions freely.
Everyone has a voice, everyone has a right to voice it — but it will always be your choice to listen. The protests against Fleischer existed because we support the freedom of speech amendment. Fleischer's speech persisted because he has his own freedom of speech. While the scene in Mead Chapel was chaotic, there was something truly amazing about it. We are a campus that supports everyone's right to be heard, regardless of what they have to express. And as a student with controversial views, I ask that we keep it that way.

Sarah McCabe is a sophomore from New York.