Free Speech for Whom?

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issue, particularly within education.
Events last semester at UIUC portrayed the
manipulative nature in which individuals in
power can selectively interpret and enforce
this right. While individuals in the dominant
group tend to enjoy freedom of speech, some
students, particularly minority students, find
this freedom restricted and regulated by the
university. This discrepancy leads to the perpetuation
of racism at UIUC in both subtle
and cyclical ways.
Notorious stereotype parties resulted in
few sanctions for students (predominantly
white), for initiating the events. But oftentimes,
the punishment is reduced or
reversed, without the university publicizing
its decisions. Other examples include the
decision to stop use of the Chief as the mascot.
Despite this decision, Chief apparel can
easily be found on campus and an exception
was made to allow the symbol’s use during
last fall’s Homecoming Parade.
In contrast, Chancellor Herman, of Jewish
ancestry, publicly admonished a cartoon
that portrayed Jewish people negatively. This
response to the stereotypical cartoon portrays
a difference in the response of the
administration toward racism on campus.
When minority students attempt to address
issues of racism, either by staging peaceful
protests or attending town hall meetings,
these events are regulated and contained by
the administration.
Under such a regime, racism, in the form
of hate speech or other sorts of expressions
can exist unconsciously. By defining ‘acts of
intolerance’ as free speech, these acts
become normalized. Thus, a culture of
silence is created in which agents of racism
do not see or understand the need to critically
analyze their actions. This perpetuates
the cycle of power and oppression in different
sectors of society. When these acts, ‘in
practice, contradict the university’s
expressed values or are left unaddressed, we
are left to question: Education for whom
and for what purpose?

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