Letter to the Editor: Free speech debate

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I write in strong disapproval of the recent UConn free speech petition. I believe the passing of this legislation will result in an increase of bias incidents on campus. There is a difference between promoting civil discourse and promoting disparaging commentary. I believe this petition will do the latter. 

The supporters of this legislation argue that President Hernandez has been “censored” or “silenced” by the USG vote of no confidence. This could not be further from the truth. Hernandez still holds a USG Senate seat and still holds his position as the Vice President of the Connecticut Young Democrats. He has not been removed from any of these platforms, and is free to communicate with his constituents. 

I voted for Mr. Hernandez last fall, thinking he was the president we needed in a time of racial and ethnic injustice. After reading his comments, it is clear I was wrong. While the president’s comments were not “hate speech,” I do believe they were disparaging and did not align with the platform of his candidacy. Instead of releasing a statement, the president has  declined any request for comment. While the free speech bill was introduced as a by-product of  a lack of transparency from the USG, it seems like Hernandez himself has been less than transparent. 

I want to be very clear that I think Hernandez should be allowed to make the aforementioned comments. That being said, if his constituents, and the constituents of the USG believe the comments he made were inconsistent with his previous stance, it makes sense that USG would make it clear that his views do not represent USG as a whole. 

I love civil discourse; I believe that an open marketplace of ideas elicits change, growth and acceptance. This Fall semester I took a political science class with peers whose beliefs were vastly different from mine. Despite completely different perspectives, we were able to have civil discourse. I believe there is a significant difference between contrasting ideas and making disparaging and provocative comments. I feel like I am free to have my own opinions and ideas at UConn, and I understand that sometimes people will disagree with me. I think this petition’s proposed legislation is unnecessarily redundant for the protections of free speech, and will also provide legitimacy for racial bias and hate speech. The UConn student body should be better than that. 

Jack Stein is a freshman computer science student.

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