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Front Page » December 14, 2004 » Opinion » What happened to open expression on campuses
Published 3,410 days ago

What happened to open expression on campuses


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate community editor

It was announced Friday that a lawsuit filed against Utah Valley State College concerning the Michael Moore appearance has been dropped. The fact it was even filed was a mark on the face of free expression on what many outsiders see as a very provincial county in the first place.

Whether you like Moores political leanings or not, when people start threatening colleges because they are trying to expose students on a campus to different kinds of views, such actions should be seen as trying to move the things students have fought for back 100 years.

While I agree that the cost to bring Moore to UVSC seemed exorbitant, it's what it took to bring him to the campus. While this suit, on the surface, was about that cost and the fact the student body officers decided to bring Moore to the campus without consulting the student body as a whole, underneath it was about Moore's political stance on the issues and on George W. Bush.

The two men that filed the suit, Kay Anderson who lives next door to the college and student at the school, Dan Garcia, claimed that they were going after the student body officers and their adviser because the group did not get general student body approval to expend student funds on the speech.

Since when does almost anyone in this country get a vote by a constituency to make every decision? That is why officers in colleges are elected similarly to how officials in state and federal government are; they make decisions based on their views for which they were put in by the people.

Admittedly the schools policies on making decisions with student funds was lacking, and their closed meetings are a strike in the face of free speech, but just the same this really wasn't about the money. It was about the political stance many people in Utah County didn't want to see put in a forum in their community.

Had Moore appeared instead at the University of Utah, or even Salt Lake Community College, I am sure reactions would have been different. Problem is that many long time residents of Happy Valley don't want their air polluted by anything except the most conservative of viewpoints.

By almost all accounts the speech Moore gave was a success. The Makay Center was full of paying customers and despite a few problems, there was no riot and liberals didn't march down State Street in Orem demanding that the city change it's ways. Sure the center was full of people that were not from Utah County, but the city and the county never seem to mind when all those outside people come there for concerts or athletic events. And I am sure they didn't mind the fact that almost all those that went to Moore's speech also went to restaurants in town, spent money in stores and bought gas before their trip home.

The school did lose about $200,000 in donations from those who opposed Moore's appearance. It also apparently has lost a million dollar art collection that was to be donated to the campus. Of course that hurts, but my take on that is if people who are donating to a school are more concerned about a few events on the campus they don't agree with than they are about overall student well being and academic standards, who wants their money? Our state colleges and universities should never be held hostage by large contributors, regardless of their political persuasion.

Having taught at UVSC part time for four years, I know the mind set of many in the community there, and it isn't an open one that inspires exploring alternatives to the status quo. Utah County already has one institution of higher education that vastly restricts student expression or those who want to espouse views that it's administration and ownership disagree with. That school has that right, because it is privately owned.

But when it comes to the only other higher educational alternative in one of the most populated places in Utah, no one should be telling students, speakers, writers or anyone else what views they can and can't put out there for all to see and hear.


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