Let’s see if we got this straight. Mississippi’s universities and colleges teach the principles of American government, don’t they?
Well then, why don’t they realize that freedom of speech is a basic right that belongs to everybody—even the lowliest freshmen on their campuses.
See, it says right here in the very First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that government shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. And as the late Justice Hugo Black once explained to those who are rather dense, “No means no.”
So then what is it our erudite institutions of higher learning don’t understand about the word “no”—the “n” or the “o”?
Hinds Community College recently missed the point of the First Amendment altogether when Isaac Rosenbloom, a 30-year-old father of two let the F-word slip as he was leaving a class at Hinds Community College.
He was hacked off because he received a “D” on a speech he’d given in his oral communication class. “The grade is going to F-up my GPA,” he told another student. His teacher overheard him and said she was going to send him to detention.
After a disciplinary hearing, Rosenbloom was found to be guilty of “flagrant disrespect” and received an involuntary withdrawal from the oral communications class, which knocked him below the required hours needed for the federal Pell Grant, which is the primary source of his tuition.
The community college backed down, however, after Rosenbloom contacted an attorney and drew national attention to the public college’s rather shaky free speech policy.
Unfortunately, the college isn’t the only public institution in Mississippi that didn’t get the word about the 218-year-old First Amendment.
Old Miss bristles at students using speech like “I hate Southern Miss.” Jackson State students could even be punished for unsolicited flirting, and most of the campuses’ students could find themselves in hot water for speaking freely about public issues, like abortion, outside so-called “free-speech zones.”
Apparently those schools are unaware of the fact all of America is “a free-speech” zone, and the courts have backed that important concept.
Yes, freedom of speech, like all other freedoms which are protected by the First Amendment, is of vital importance.
“If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on matters which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can involve the consideration of mankind, reason is no use to us,” George Washington once commented, adding that “If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led like sheep to the slaughter.”
Justice Black also rejected the idea that government was entitled to punish “obscene” speech,” and he further contended, “I have always believed under the First and 14th amendments neither the state nor the federal government has any authority to regulate or censor the content of speech.”
Even though Author Marshall Lumsden had a point when he said, “At no time is freedom of speech more precious than when a man hits his thumb with a hammer,” we almost never condone obscene speech. Normally, using it is just plain bad taste.
More important than not banning obscenity, however, we believe students, as well as all Americans, have the right to speak out freely on public issues.
“The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen,” Comedian Tommy Smothers thoughtfully reflected.
Even so, we also believe it is good that the right of free speech, like all other rights, should be tempered, but not government mandated, with wisdom and respect.
“It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have three unspeakable precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either,” Mark Twain once quipped.
Ever once in a while, even that might be good advice.