Throughout American history, student opinions and attitudes have driven the political and social change that has helped to shape our nation as we know it today. Student activism has become the fiber and cord that has sparked these changes.
Where would we be today if students had no voice?
Some Vietnam War protests initiated by college students were instrumental in questioning the policies surrounding America’s involvement in Indochina’s affairs. Student expression throughout the nation took every conceivable form. Students carried banners, participated in marches, formed rallies and held campus-wide convocations just to make their voice heard.
Throughout the nation today, there is a call that is growing louder and more urgent everyday – the student voice. Student expression should be respected, especially in a society where students are taught to take a stand and voice their opinions.
I recently encountered a professor at FAMU who questioned my opinion in an accreditation article that was published by the Famuan on Feb. 17. Because of my situation as a student, it was implied I was not entitled to an opinion.
If students always took direction from their parents, teachers, employers or friends, they may never have had a voice in history, which indeed is evident by the actions of people such as Ella Baker, Stokely Carmichael, Julian Bond and Ruby Doris Smith Robinson. Their efforts with Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee on the campuses of Shaw University, Morehouse College and Spelman College truly changed black people’s ability to have the rights we have today.
As a journalism graduate student, I understand the power of the press and appreciate being able to express an independent opinion. It is debatable as to whether students should express uninformed opinions. However, if students believe that they can be part of academic change, they should feel free to express well thought-out opinions.
My freedom of speech should not be censored by another’s right to express himself. I understand this professor’s frustration and believe he is entitled to free opinion under our First Amendment. However, any differences of opinion between faculty and students should be expressed in a manner that facilitates further communication of how we can make this university even better.
My source of worry is that the student voice will be suppressed, leaving us vulnerable to the outside world.
A university’s success is based on the students and how they view the institution that they call home. Therefore, student opinion should be held in the highest regard. We should expect, if not demand, that the opinions of students on this campus at least be heard.
Summer Hall is a graduate journalism student from New York City. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.