Debate over freedom of speech erupts at UCSB
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A group of pro-life supporters from Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula walked onto the UCSB campus on March 4, and made their way to the “Free Speech Zone,” that had been sectioned-off by the school, holding up signs with “offensive material” such as pictures of aborted fetuses.
Mireille Miller-Young, a feminist studies professor at UCSB, took one of the signs from the pro-life supporters, tore the sign and, when followed by a few people from the group, assaulted the one person who was recording the whole ordeal. Miller-Young has been charged with theft, vandalism and battery.
The students from Thomas Aquinas College followed protocol as they headed to the “Free Speech Zone” before putting up their signs and protesting. This area on the UCSB campus is where such activities are permitted and where information can be handed out to UCSB students. The group of pro-lifers included about 12 demonstrators, including 16-year-old Thrin Short, who was later assaulted by Miller-Young and suffered several scratches due to the melee.
According to Miller-Young’s defense to the police, others that saw the pro-life signs were “demanding that the images be taken down,” but the demonstrators refused, at which point, Miller-Young took it upon herself to snatch the sign away from the girl.
“I’m stronger, so I was able to take the poster,” was Miller-Young’s response when asked if there was a struggle, according to the Washington Post.
Miller-Young also admitted the she was mainly responsible for the destruction of the poster since she was the one with the scissors. Because the poster was upsetting to her and other students, she felt that the activists did not have the right to be there.
Miller-Young felt it was her moral right to react the way she did because she and many other UCSB students were negatively “triggered” by the images on the poster Joan Short told CNS News.
“Trigger trauma” is a phrase in therapy that is used to explain when some word, image, song, or smell “triggers” a trauma victim’s painful memory of a traumatic experience. Some are arguing that this phrase is being used to excuse Miller-Young’s actions as she is a pro-choice supporter, she is pregnant and she teaches about women’s reproductive rights.
UCSB’s Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Michal Young, sent out a campus-wide e-mail regarding “Student Free Speech at UCSB,” in which he stated, “Freedom and rights are not situational: we either have freedom of speech or we do not. We cannot pick and choose which views are allowed to be aired and who is allowed to speak. If that were the case, then only those in charge — those holding power — would determine who gets to speak and whose views are heard.”
Petitions have been made in support and in opposition of Miller-Young’s actions.
While the supporters of Miller-Young are larger in number than those in opposition, UCSB has held that free speech is either free or it is not.
In his e-mail, Young continued, “If you do not want to be confronted by certain materials or expressions, you should avoid the free-speech areas when you expect you might encounter them, or simply ignore them . . . if you feel that you must respond, hold a peaceful, thoughtful, civil and dignified counter-demonstration, and show how students engage intellectually and politically at UCSB.”