UWG has promoted a campus community that is active and educated regarding their rights to free speech. This has created a community of held wellness where students are valued in their actions toward free speech.
“UWG has not been an activist campus since the late 60’s.” said Dr. Scot Lingrell, Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment, “that means that we are not compared to college campuses like Berkley, where students are actively protesting about affairs that happen on or off campus. However, we did have some students who reacted to the Trayvon Martin incident that happened in 2012.”
Incidents like this one have inspired UWG students to speak out and to take action whether rallying together as a body of students, protesting outside on campus, honoring someone’s life with a memorial or a freely given speech.
Due to the inevitability of events striking controversy the UWG has taken a stand for students to have the available resources to be able to speak out and talk about these issues when they do occur.
“When Trump became president, we had an instance where a student placed a sign on campus that read, ‘Build that wall.’ Because of this, we did not have any intentions on taking action against the sign, because this was that anonymous student’s way of expressing his or her beliefs about the President’s views,” said Lingrell. “This is the ultimate example of free spontaneous expression that we encourage students to take here at the University. But it also didn’t take long for another group of anonymous students to come alongside this free speech movement to surround the sign with love letters.”
Instead of trying to get rid of free speech, the UWG Department of Student Affairs encourages that more speech be given toward an issue of contention.
“More speech is the perfect antidote to free speech. And the response of the love letters from the students was the perfect way to express that. Students here at UWG are good at handling these cases. As the Department of Student Affairs, we have seen it time and time again,” said Lingrell, “We have hope in our students to handle these situations with grace.”
UWG and its student affairs leaders have adopted the mentality that one cannot suppress someone else’s right to speak just because they disagree with them. Offensive free speech is going to occur, but it appears that some UWG students would rather take the high road.
“We don’t want to limit free speech if we don’t have to because a college campus should be the exact place where you should be able to have free speech,” said Lingrell. “The last place where you really can speak without retribution in the form of a consequence because the University supports the very act of free speech itself.”
The held wellness and inclusion community that UWG has created for students to use free speech is an opportunity that does not need to be missed.