WSU free speech rally attracts many points of view

NewImageHere’s the problem: the Supreme Court just unanimously affirmed that there’s no “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment. You may not like it, but they have a right to say it. 

From the Moscow-Pullman Daily News

WSU leaders try to define hate speech

A debate on the definition of hate speech continued on the Washington State University campus Wednesday following an administration building sit-in last month.

But former WSU College Republicans president James Allsup stole the spotlight at a free speech rally that afternoon.

Hosted by the WSU chapter of Young Americans for Liberty, the rally began quietly in the morning on the steps outside Todd Hall as about a dozen participants held signs expressing their points of view on civil rights, veganism, smoking and other things.

“At the end of the day, all we really have is our health, our bodies, our mind and our speech. It’s our expression,” Noah White, vice president of the Young Americans for Liberty, said.

One student wore a cow costume, his mouth covered in tape to campaign for the rights of animals. Another held a sign asking those who smoke to do so indoors.

Other signs included statements such as “Black Lives Matter” and “White Nats SUCK.” A megaphone was set on the stairs, open for anyone to state their point of view on anything.

Despite open invitations to discuss free speech, the ralliers drew little reaction from passersby until the former College Republicans president took the megaphone to speak his mind.

“We came here to start a conversation, and nobody was participating until (Allsup) showed up,” WSU student Kevin Hermanson told the Daily News.

A larger crowd of students gathered in Glenn Terrell Mall then, as several people questioned Allsup on the definition of free speech and his opinions on civil rights issues.

WSU students Senaiet Zerom and Siena Williams participated in the sit-in against racism on campus last month. There, protesters made several demands of WSU leadership, including that the university create policy defining free speech versus hate speech.

On Wednesday, Zerom and Williams told Allsup they had been called racial slurs by someone on campus before – Allsup called that harassment.

But some students said Allsup was wrong when he argued that other types of speech, which he called detestable, wrong and gross, are defended by the Constitution.

“He was really just contradicting himself the whole time,” Williams said.

WSU leadership met last week with students who participated in the sit-in to discuss their demands.

Phil Weiler, vice president for marketing and communication, said the group’s demand for policy defining free speech versus hate speech has since shifted in focus to clarifying the university’s Executive Policy No. 15, which seeks to “maintain an environment free of all forms of discrimination.”

“What we want to be able to do is kind of separate [harassment and discrimination] so we’re not having the two issues conflated,” Weiler said.

To Weiler’s understanding, the issue comes down to whether speech is trying to incite violence or not.

One sign at the rally, held by WSU College Republicans president Amir Rezamand, seemed to summarize the question WSU is now deliberating, asking, “What is hate speech?”

Rezamand said he wants to get a consensus on the question and find a definition that is apolitical in nature.

“It’s a very confusing topic to me. I think it’s a very confusing topic to the vast majority of people,” Rezamand said.