Do you feel safe to express yourself?
The framers of this country didn’t feel safe before they succeeded from King George in 1776. That’s why, as a result, they created documents like the Bill of Rights, which had sections like the First Amendment, guaranteeing freedom of expression.
You have a right to speak, so does the person sitting next to you; and we all have a responsibility to make sure all willing voices are heard.
Matt Miles, a professor in the political science department, said our right to free speech does not guarantee we have it.
“Just because you have a right on paper doesn’t mean you actually have that right,” Miles said. “You only have the rights you use.”
In a recent Scroll editorial, different parties used their rights to express their ideas, which led to major conflict.
The Scroll editorial staff was of the opinion that students petitioning the banning of yoga pants in the gym facilities on the grounds of immodesty were conflicting with university policy.
This policy states that “types of form fitting exercise or fitness pants (leggings, yoga pants, running tights or similar) should be solid black in color (no patterns, designs or writing),” according to the BYU-I Recreational Facilities Web page.
There are two sides to this story: one that felt the school’s policy to allow yoga pants supported immodesty; the other offered opinions in support of the school’s policy.
The problem with this is the bashing that followed breached the safe environment for speech.
Readers of each opinion expressed their anger or frustration on the subject by combatively approaching individuals with the opposing opinion.
The petitioners had the right to create their petition in order to express their concern, just like Scroll had the right to express their concern regarding the petition and the validity of the petitioners’ argument.
The petitioners took appropriate action in expressing their concerns by approaching the school, which approves and enforces the policy. They didn’t approach any individuals in the gym saying, “You are dressed immodestly. Go change.”
Scroll also acted appropriately by addressing concerns regarding the policy and the petition, instead of addressing the petitioners directly.
There are no such things as false ideas, only ideas that are not credibly supported. Ideas are not inherently wrong.
Because both parties had strong opinions on the subject, they both had the right and to share those in order to help create a free market of ideas.
Another problem with this scenario is that it creates a sense of fear to speak up because nobody wants to be vilified for their opinion.
Miles said this shouldn’t be a feeling students have at BYU-I.
This should be a place of safe and open discussion of ideas and concerns amongst a diverse student body.
“I just think people need to remember that just because someone is disagreeing with them or protesting what they said, that doesn’t mean their free speech is being threatened,” said Lindsey Johnson, a senior studying communication.
Even if we are afraid, we must speak if we have ideas about a subject.
If we don’t speak up, we are giving up one of our rights of our own volition.
This applies to any engagement, whether it’s a student-to-student or student-to-teacher relationship.
Ultimately, do not be afraid to state your opinion in opposition to anyone, even if you feel they hold authority over you.
This isn’t to cause contention, but to gain understanding and to utilize our constitutionally given ability to freely express our ideas.
Some teachers have suggested the notion that if students disagree with them, they face repercussions affecting their grade.
This is not OK and should not be expressed in a university classroom.
College is designed to be a place of conflict and challenging ideas to help raise the academic level of all individuals affected — students and faculty.
When we frequently state our opinions and ideas, others may be encouraged by our example, leading to a safer speaking environment.
“They need you to say it so they can have courage to say it the next time,” Miles said.
How did this country become great?
Because bold individuals spoke up when they felt something was incorrect.
We have a right to speak up, but that right will only benefit someone if it is used and defended by every person.