This guest column is written by Trevor Tisdale, a junior studying political science.
Editor’s Note: Speakeasy has chosen to publish this opinion piece on behalf of its relevance, rather than its content. Our publication strives to serve as an open platform for students to voice their opinions on any matter that they feel passionate about. If any one would like to submit a response to be published on our platform please send any op-ed pieces to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The solidarity of a community is founded on its ability to stand as one, in the most troubling times, and to rise from settled dust to refocus its ability and recommit to shared purposes. That moment is fast approaching; as a community we must come together, all differences cast aside, and face up to the problems which threaten our very progress. A problem surfacing now is in the form of restriction on assembly.
In August of this year, Policy 24.014: Freedom of Expression was approved by Ohio University’s administration. This policy is aimed at limiting the right of individuals to assemble in certain places on campus, and putting the authority to limit that right into the hands of the university. Since its conception, this policy has been receiving its fair share of backlash.
As discourse took flight, individuals have risen to the occasion. Political organizations from all points on the spectrum have come together in the most unbelievable turn of events to create a coalition to signify unity. These organizations include: The Students for Liberty (SFL), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), College Republicans (OUCR), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), and the International Socialist Organization (ISO).
In doing so, they have sent an emotional ripple through this community — the likes of which hasn’t been seen in a long time.
But sometimes, the focus on principle is lost, and the intention of a group shows its fiery face in the form of loyalty to the party.
To be completely clear, this column is not one that will focus on defamation. We must stay on the honorable path and try to rekindle the signal fire to draw back those who have strayed into the dark. I want every Bobcat to promote this idea of solidarity to all, and I want us to utilize this moment not for the sake of making history, but instead for the sake of creating a future. A future in which our youngest Bobcats can someday enjoy.
Before we can achieve this goal, I must acknowledge the elephant in the room. A couple of organizations on campus have piggy-backed on the coalition in order to promote loyalty to their own hidden agenda. The group in question has acknowledged that our ship is taking on water. They agreed to help patch the hole, but have instead resorted to building a new boat entirely. In doing so, they have left those that they disagree with stranded at sea. This group has strayed from the task of fixing the problem which threatens not just those in the coalition, but everyone at the university.
The group I am referring to has potentially squandered an opportunity to act nobly — no matter — we must fare it alone from here. If they’d like to come back, we should accept them with open arms; but the cynic in me does not see that happening, since they’ve never had much room in their world for those that oppose them. Along with this wicked twist of fate, another problem faces our community and society as a whole: a problem WE are creating.
Protest is defined as “a statement or action expressing disapproval of, or objection to something”. We have the right to peaceably assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. The term I want to focus on here is “peaceably”. The idea that people should come together in opposition, without conflict, is what our Constitution grants. Sadly, the word “peaceably” is being overshadowed, and with it, protest is being devalued.
I am not sad because of what the groups in question have done, I am sad that groups all over the country have taken it upon themselves to assemble as much as possible in order to demand change before going through the proper process. We live in a representative democracy. The actual steps have been given to us in order to govern ourselves, but instead of following these processes accurately, some feel that taking to the streets is the first accessible route. Those who are willing to dismiss the method of democracy are the ones who so blatantly misuse its power.
I want to say this once: protest does not always mean assembly. Protest means what it was defined to mean, and it can be a statement or an action. The forms of statements and actions are limitless. At times they are written, and many times those written forms are the most powerful. Sometimes they are done through signature, and sometimes they are done through song.
Assemblies that are the size and scope of the one planned for Friday October 20th are gatherings that should be taken in last resort. Not because they are unimportant, but because if our community is going to have a large assembly every time something goes wrong, and before any other measures have been taken, then these large assemblies lose their degree of sincerity.
I want our administration to take this issue seriously, and I fear that if we do not go through the proper process before we take to the streets, they will keep making policies and keep doing what they want. We need to show them, as a community, that we mean business. The Coalition still matters, now it just depends on whether we want to revive it.