Letter to the Editor: Policies and Regulations should be updated

Jala Cole

Dear Dr. David Szymanski,

To express yourself and to get others to join in something you love is a wonderful feeling. Sharing and engaging in conversation and beliefs brings awareness to many controversial issues such as race, sexuality, gender equality, abortion, and more. However, when the conversation is restricted to certain areas, it is impossible to get the full effect or see the positive impact the conversation may have. Dr. Szymanski, I am writing to reform policy 7.0040R which calls for the confinement of freedom of expression to outside areas of campus. This policy should be reformed to allow individuals, especially students to express themselves and speak out about their values in buildings on campus.

It is understandable that this policy was implemented recently on response to the Senate’s demand for free speech zones. Some forms of speak and expression can be disruptive and can cause uproar amongst the public. For instance, abortion is a controversial topic that has been debated on for years. Pro-life speakers and demonstrators tend to pass out and display graphic images to inform the public that babies are being killed and gain support for change. Their wishes contradict those who support choice. It is common for the two to clash and get into heated arguments. Another example of troubling expression is when individuals come on campus to evangelize and claim that they are doing God’s will. Some of these individuals are calm and collected, yet there are some who yell and scream to get their message across. It is horrifying to walk around campus and suddenly get yelled at, “You’re going to hell,” or “Hell is hot, don’t be a thot.”

I agree that such forms of expression should be restricted to outside areas, especially the extreme evangelist, but the policy should be expanded for students. Students, who come to the University of North Florida for an education, a safe space to speak their mind and stand for what they believe, should be allowed to engage with other students at their leisure about their viewpoints. They should be allowed to pass out fliers and bring people to the table and spark up conversation. According to the mission statement, the University of North Florida is “committed to intellectual and cultural growth and civic awareness.” This allows more people to get involved, bring awareness, and makes a significant difference in the work that gets done such as civic engagement. A chain effect takes place; Antonio and Amberly talk to Zach and Michel who in turn talk to four other people and so forth, eventually, thirty new people show up to debate gun control in front of the State Senate.

I know those in opposition to my claim would ask, “why just students?” They would argue that students can be just as disruptive and impractical when it comes to expressing what they believe. Anyone with any set of beliefs and values can become insensible when discussing controversial topics; however, the main speakers who students have complained about are off-campus individuals. These individuals stand around campus yelling and targeting pedestrians. My claim applies to students because students pay to attend this school. After four years of high school, they have chosen to make the University of North Florida their home for an additional four years. Picking a university is not an easy decision and for individuals to pick this school means three things: they value the school mission and what they stand for, they feel the school is a great place for personal, social, and cultural growth, and they believe their values will be acknowledged; not suppressed. Students will not wish to jeopardize their opportunity to attend school and receive an education. Although heated debate is inevitable, all parties value and understand those in opposition; they know when to address the topic at another time if needed as to not disturb classes or those around.

As I stated above, I understand why the policy was implemented within the university’s policies and regulations; however, policies and regulations should be updated regularly. Times change, specifically opinions and what is defined as “true” or “right.” Sir, students would not jeopardize their opportunity to attend school and become something greater than what they are. Please do not jeopardize their opportunity to display their love and support for their beliefs in all areas. Please do not place a limit on your students’ right to speech and expression. I implore that you take my words under consideration.


Jala Cole

Undergraduate student and part-time employee, University of North Florida


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