There is not truth unless we as people can speak freely. Upon entering college we can assume that we will receive a higher education and thus be elevated in our sense of self-worth. This self-worth is deserved since we have strained and sacrificed so much in order to obtain a diploma. We have given so much in order to improve the future and try to correct some mistakes made in the past.
This is why I have chosen to enter the “great halls” of academia, to make amends for the mistakes made by mankind. There are few privileges that should be held dearer than the ability and opportunity to make your mark on the future. However, when you are constrained and restricted in the use of civil liberties, then college is more like a private school. A restriction of speech is an embarrassing thing for colleges to enforce, when the school was originally designed to broaden and enlighten.
The day Gov. Cuomo arrived at Oswego State to sign the state budget, I went to the college to show my support for Frack Action, a nationwide organization against frack drilling. Naturally, I assumed the police would be there, guarding the governor but still allowing us to protest. What I did not calculate was how conditional my First Amendment rights really were when it came to the silence Albany wanted on the issue. Oswego State was only more than willing to oblige. We were informed that the college was not allowing protesting that day. Instead I had the campus police require that I submit a permit to protest, a phenomenon that has recently shown up across the country. A permit to protest: a request you make to the same people and the same government you wish to file grievance with. It seems insulting to ask them if we can protest something they have done.
The campus police told me that we are no longer allowed to voice our opinion unless the school says it’s OK. The school says when, where and how. The same people who took an oath on the Constitution to uphold all that it meant threatened me, as a student, with arrest. I was told by them that even though I was a student, I could not enter Sheldon Hall, not even to pass through it. I was told my First Amendment rights were no longer rights, but privileges and as privileges, were subject to revocation. I was told all this through the pompous smirk of an “oath taker.”
When we accept an incident like this, we accept that even the simplest rights can be dictated by people who want to remove that right in order not to have to deal with us. That is something that I will not accept. I will not accept that I can pay for tuition and I can attend the classes here, but I cannot step off the path and protest. That is, unless I want to ask permission to stand in the quad when they say it’s OK.
Be it a third-party group that wants to protest without aggression or a student who doesn’t want to be threatened with arrest for merely speaking his mind, no one has the right to decide they are not allowed to exercise their First Amendment rights.
I am disgusted how little people will protest. They will simply say, “What are you going to do?”
They will sell candy and snacks, but will not march or protest political and environmental issues. “What are you going to do?” has become a mantra for the fearful and lazy. The fire has gone out of the eyes of the generations to come and that alone is sad enough. We cannot be complacent and still be considered a free society.