By Pooja Bachani
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” –U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights
The First Amendment is increasingly being called into question on college campuses, including within our own Long Island University network. A community’s response to issues sets the precedent for future generations. New generations learn by example; if X is permitted, then it must be lawful/fair/good. In light of recent events on campus, what are we teaching the next generation about the First Amendment?
The semester began with protests at LIU Brooklyn against a faculty lockout over contract negotiations. Students and faculty exercised their First Amendment rights to peacefully protest against the administration, and petition for a redress of grievances. Thank- fully, contract negotiations were temporarily extended and classes resumed at LIU Brooklyn.
However, moving forward does not necessarily translate to moving on. The lockout left many dismayed and angry at the fact that it even happened. Students were abuzz with the news. The LIU Brooklyn Student Coalition protested at an Oct. 18 Board of Trustees meeting that was relocated at the last minute. Needless to say, there was speculation as to the cause; perhaps it was to silence the students’ voices.
Simultaneously at Post, The Pioneer learned of budget cuts that would directly affect the paper’s ability to print; its only cost is printing. On Nov. 2, The Pioneer ran a full-page ad asking readers to help keep the paper alive. Of course, one response is “online does not mean dead.” But, on this campus it just might.
Students grab the paper in Hillwood Commons while waiting to purchase lunch or on the way into the library; the readership is predominantly based on print. Thus, it follows that moving the paper online would directly result in decreased readership.
If it were to happen, this would be the first academic year in the paper’s 60-year history without a print copy. The predicament begs the question, what precedent are we setting for the next generation?
Every major university and college has a student newspaper not only for journalism students to practice their art, but also to keep the student body abreast of local news. While the Pioneer would be able to serve that purpose if it was to transition online, it serves said purpose better as a print publication.
To say that the Post administration is attempting to limit First Amendment rights would be a gross miscalculation of logic; the claim lacks evidentiary support. To clarify, no causal link has been established between administrative action and restrictions on First Amendment rights. The question is not whose fault is it, but rather is it okay to potentially lose an avenue to exercise our First Amendment rights?
Within the LIU network, expression of First Amendment rights is not limited to the newspaper or the ability to protest. The university was welcoming to Young Americans for Liberty, a student organization dedicated to promoting the principles of liberty, including free speech.
LIU Post YAL runs weekly open forums designed to encourage students to exercise their First Amendment rights within, and without, the discussion. The LIU Brooklyn YAL chapter is forming. The current generation is being socially instructed to censor and be politically correct; the student protests, the Pioneer, and YAL seek to instruct the opposite.
Any action (direct or indirect) taken against the aforementioned, the beacons of peaceful assembly, free speech and freedom of the press, in an attempt to limit their ability to serve their purpose, can be seen as potentially unconstitutional. Furthermore, it sets a dangerous precedent.