Friday, May 11, 2012

Are Our Clubs Going to Pot?


Noam Chomsky,  

“If we do not believe in freedom of speech for those we despise we do not believe in it at all.”


I have been reading with great interest (I am a student senate advisor) this discussion that has been occurring on SCC’s campus regarding the recent approval of the ‘cannabis' club!  

What I love about working on a college campus is that it is an excellent venue and time for students to become more aware of the world around them....it is a time to discuss controversial issues and to learn to really listen to each side. As a result some minds are opened.  And maybe the discussion(s) will lead to a clearer understanding and maybe the discussions will not lead to anything but what is most important is that each person was respectful of each person's beliefs, opinions, and ideologies. 

What concerns me about this cannabis discussion is when ‘we’ begin to censor clubs or dismiss ideas based on our own fears and beliefs, the opportunity for critical thinking, debate and engaging in an exchange of ideas ends.  My other concern is that some feel that First Amendment Rights should not apply at a public institution that receives public funding and those rights should not have to apply to our student government.

Controversial issues should not be feared but embraced as an opportunity to learn.  Students need to feel free to ask challenging questions and to express controversial opinions without fear of censorship and if they want to form a club to discuss political issues - so what?  

Shouldn't we be happy that our students want to join together and work towards a common cause?  How many important skills are these students gaining while working together as a team?   

For me, the skills gained far outweigh the club's mission - the skills they gain are skills that can be transferred and used in their futures...(lobbying, debating, communicating, picketing, etc.)  My initial reaction to the club's creation was exactly that - what a great learning opportunity!
The same right (First Amendment) that allowed the club to be approved is the same right that also protects us from groups like a pedophile club on campus.  There are limits to Freedom of Speech as set forth by the US Supreme Court – thus the ‘pedophile’ group referenced by opponents would not stand a chance of being approved based on the criteria written by the U.S. Government.  The ‘cannabis’ club does not meet any of ‘this’ criteria (there are various court cases) for denial.  Furthermore, SCC’s legal counsel advised the college to allow the club for first amendment reasons.

The Student Senate was advised that the senators could deny the club based on legitimate and constitutional  (student senate’s constitution)  reasons.  Reasons like ‘poor image’, ‘we are a conservative institution’, ‘I don’t want my money going toward that..’ are not proper reasons to deny a club.  Bottom line each club has to be approved or disapproved by the same criteria used on all clubs.  We cannot begin using separate criteria for clubs based on beliefs.  Each of you should be more disturbed and outraged when an organization or individual begins censoring and denying rights based on personal beliefs. 

So, What are the opponents scared about?  The club cannot make you join, the club cannot make you smoke pot, the club is not forcing you to sign a petition - .the club is not doing anything illegal.  

My federal and local tax money goes to support programs that I may not support and I also pay taxes to schools and have no children.  Big deal.  That is what it is about, isn’t it?  Living in a democracy.
   
So, instead of slamming the administration or slamming the club - what is the proper response?
Start an anti-cannabis club – that is the great thing about living in a democracy.

4 comments:

  1. All of us should remember that popular speech seldom needs to be defended. In this case, this may well be an unpopular decision/club on campus with the majority. The free speech clause is most important when it supports the right of folk to argue for the minority view.

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