Wright State University

The Guardian

Debate sparks over management of protest

Lucas Gonzalez, News Editor

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On Wednesday, Sept. 20, there was a public demonstration held on the Quad area of Wright State’s campus. The demonstrators represented Created Equal, a pro-life organization based in Columbus, Ohio.

The day prior to their arrival, Gary Dickstein, Interim Vice President of Student Affairs, sent out a campus-wide email warning students about the demonstrators’ use of “graphic images” of aborted fetuses. The message sent out to students was a collaborative effort shared between Dickstein and the Office of Communications.

Wright State is one of the many schools at which they have demonstrated, according to Mark Harrington, founder of Created Equal. Harrington believes the email was biased, particularly because this has not been done for other protest groups that have appeared at Wright State.

“Wright State has a draconian free speech policy,” said Harrington. “We are doing a disservice to our youth when we coddle them. They are adults; we should treat them like ones.”

Anyone can come to Wright State’s campus because it is a public institution. However, organizations must submit a form before they are can demonstrate or march on campus, according to Eric Corbitt, Director of Student Union, Campus Recreation and Student Activities. They also need to reserve a space, according to Dickstein. Created Equal was allowed to demonstrate under the condition that they would be limited to the Quad.

According to Dickstein, Wright State has a responsibility to uphold first amendment rights, regardless of viewpoint. By the same token, Dickstein claimed there have been many requests from the student body to receive advance notice before a protest occurs on campus, so they have the chance to avoid it if they choose to. Discussions about sending notification emails to students were already in place before Created Equal announced their appearance at Wright State, according to Dickstein.

The debate over Dickstein’s email came a few months after Ohio lawmakers introduced the Campus Free Speech Act, a bill that would eliminate “free speech zones” on college campuses. State Representative Niraj Antani  has criticized the decision to send a warning email, which he believed to be politically biased. “People who you disagree with still have the right to free speech,” said Antani. We should not “weaken people by shielding them from opinions they disagree with.”

According to sophomore Sarah Marsh, free speech rights should be protected, but students should be given the option to avoid demonstrations if they so choose. “Restricting the group to one area on campus allows students to avoid the protests,” said Marsh. “The idea [of the bill] is touchy, since free speech has been used as a rallying cry for people to defend discriminatory and hateful speech. Legislators should be careful in passing such legislation to take into account the conflict that could come out of it.”

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Wright State University
Debate sparks over management of protest