Spring Hill’s Constitution Week events were plagued by administration problems, but we managed to have a successful week anyway!
The plan was to have a free speech wall in the student center from September 17 through the 23, but Spring Hill was inaugurating their new school president on the 17 and could not appropriate the correct materials approved for the wall until late that afternoon.
Not to be deterred we set up a table for the 17 and with help from Mohammed Shaker from the leadership institute got quite a few sign ups.
Eventually that night, Spring Hill’s maintenance crew brought the whiteboards and tables and we got our wall set up. I was thrilled to see everything come together finally. I left to go home for the weekend in good spirits having no idea what would await me on Monday.
It was very late and pouring rain when I got back in Sunday night, so I didn’t get a chance to see what my classmates had to say, but I knew from my friends and other chapter members that the wall was almost full.
As I said I had no idea what I had gotten myself into with this project. Monday morning, I was woken up with a phone call from someone at the Center for Student Involvement telling me that the wall had to come down. My school apparently was less accepting of free speech than I previously thought.
I asked them to leave the wall up until I could come discuss the problem. Thankfully she agreed. I arrived to see that several students’ phone numbers had been written on the board, which seemed to be the main concern after about a five minute conversation I got the okay to keep the wall as long as I scribbled over the phone numbers and put up a sign.
My fight with school administration, however, was just beginning. As I got to work scribbling over phone numbers, someone in Student Affairs came out to see what I was doing and immediately became concerned with the messages left on the board. He brought out both the head of student affairs and called the head of student involvement to come decide if I could keep my wall. I tried to reason that I had described what this activism project would be, had registered the event, had gone through all the proper channels.
I went to Facebook to ask for advice while the administration decided what to do about me. Elizabeth Hayes saved the day by helping me comb over my school’s policy handbook. Armed with proof that I had every right to keep my wall, I waited several hours until finally I got the call that they were all ready to meet with me.
As I walked up to about 15 people standing around my free speech wall, I was suddenly very glad that I had been trying to make friends with the Center for Student Involvement staff and that I had higher ups in YAL standing behind me, even if they were halfway across the country. The consensus from Student Affairs was that I had to either remove or censor my wall. It took all my self control to remain calm as I explained that I could not in good conscience censor it and that I had every right to keep it according to their policy. In the end Student Involvement advocated for me and helped me reach a compromise: I could keep the wall but I had to pull the paper down and start over. I was slightly disheartened at that; I felt like I had to give up a bit of principle but rather than lose the whole project I agreed.
There is a bit of a happy ending, upon replacing my paper I came back to see that the entire Center for Student Involvement staff had written me nice encouraging messages. The rest of the week ran uneventfully we got some more sign ups and had a nice dialogue on Constitutional Rights, and just maybe made some allies in Spring Hill Administration.Published in