For Week 1 back on campus, YAL at UCSD set up a free speech wall of our own construction on Monday and Wednesday, to promote both free speech and our first meeting Wednesday evening. The event was a hit, and both of our boards filled up after just a few hours of tabling. The reaction from students was very positive, who were generally thrilled with the idea that they could write anything they wanted.
We thought we might be in for trouble when a campus police officer came by to look at the wall, since UCSD has had troubles with free speech in the past. However, despite a very prominent “F*** THE POLICE” written on the board, he said he thought the event was great, and even inquired as to our organization and its goals, going so far as to offer his skills as a speaker if we ever needed a cop to give a presentation.
A few days after our event, I actually got an email from the Center for Student Involvement at UCSD, saying that a couple complaints had been registered about offensive comments written on our wall. To be honest, I’m surprised anyone complained at all — any offensive comments were marginal at best, the vast majority of what students wrote was positive. While I was disappointed that the school felt the need to address this at all, their handling of it actually wasn’t terrible. I talked to one of them on the phone and she told me that while we were completely within our rights to hold this event (it was nice to hear that the school realized this), she hoped that if we did it again we would “monitor” what students wrote more carefully, and perhaps try to discourage people from writing anything offensive.
While I feel like what she was hinting at was for us to censor people, which we would never do, we had already been reminding participants that “you can write whatever you want, we won’t censor anything, but we can’t promise that people won’t hate you if you write something offensive.” Regardless, it was good to see that the school wasn’t trying to outright censor us.
All in all, based on the positive reception from students and the great turnout at our first meeting, this event went fantastically. We hope to do more Constitution themed events this quarter, possibly including events for the 2nd and 4th Amendments.