Controversial Speakers UMD

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Is Free Expression Controversial?

UMD, like most colleges, wants students to seek knowledge, debate ideas, and form opinions although some may be controversial. Because of the UMD “Academic Freedom and Free Speech” policy, it is not uncommon to see protestors, activists, and religious groups around campus attempting to persuade and educate students on their cause. Being in college allows you to explore and learn from both your peers and speakers and these rights will be protected by the university.

During my time at the University of Maryland, I have seen several controversial speakers gathering both on and around campus. Whether they are at the center of campus in the middle of the mall or in the residential area of College Park, both students and non-students have the right to express themselves in whichever way they please. One important aspect of these types of speakers and protesters you should keep in mind is that everyone has their own beliefs that should be respected or debated in a non-violent manner. The UMD free speech policy allows freedom of expression and an open environment to pursue scholarly inquiry and for sharing of information are encouraged, supported, and protected at the University of Maryland.

In addition to this, The University of Maryland supports the right of individual students, faculty, staff, and student organizations to demonstrate and leaflet, provided such activities do not disrupt normal activities or infringe upon the rights of others. This means that they allow free speech and expression as long as it does not interfere with some specific guidelines or functions. This includes:

  • Persons may not block or otherwise interfere with the free flow of vehicular, bicycle, or pedestrian traffic.  The right of way on streets and sidewalks must be maintained.
  • Persons may not block or otherwise interfere with ingress and egress into and out of campus buildings.
  • Persons shall not obstruct, disrupt, interrupt, or attempt to force the cancellation of any event or activity sponsored by the university or by any users authorized to use university facilities.
  • Persons shall not engage in harassing, physically abusive, threatening, or intimidating conduct toward any person.
  • Persons shall comply with the directions of a university official acting in the performance of his/her duty.
  • Classes or other scheduled activities shall not be disrupted.
  • The use of public address systems and amplified sound will not be permitted without prior approval from Stamp Event & Guest Services.

Unscheduled demonstrations, rallies, or equivalent activities may be held by recognized university organizations, full or part-time students, and current employees of the university in the areas defined above [McKeldin Mall, Engineering Field, South Chapel Field, Hornbake Plaza, Adele H. Stamp Student Union Front Lawn, Nyumburu Amphitheatre] provided that the activity does not interfere with any functions for which that space has been reserved in advance.

Any speaker, protestor, or advocate, whether they are a student, a faculty member, a staff member, or a visitor, is prohibited from directly targeting a specific passerby. If this occurs, they are subject to removal from campus, arrest, or other University punishment such as probation or expulsion.

College has traditionally been an institution that exposes its students to different viewpoints. The belief is that this exposure teaches students to understand, evaluate, and repudiate bad and sometimes hateful ideas. So, is free speech controversial? We are here to get an education and although some of the protestors and speakers are a nuisance to some people on campus, remember that they have a right to voice their opinion. So, next time you see a protestor preaching about something you do not agree with, just walk away!

For more information regarding UMD’s policy on Academic Freedom and Free Speech read their handout.

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2020-09-01T11:55:19-04:000 Comments

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