Students express mixed feelings over CSU free speech policy

Katy Mueller

When it comes to free speech on the campus Plaza, it is confusing to some as to why so many groups are allowed to gather in the Lory Student Center Plaza and talk to students.

The Free Speech and Right to a Peaceful Assembly section in Colorado State University’s policy catalog states that as long as activists and groups on campus do not physically disrupt a student’s learning or ability to get to class, they get to stay.

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Katie Hodges, a sophomore computer science major, agrees with this policy — she said that as long as people practicing free speech are not hurting anyone, it should not be a problem to have them in the Plaza.

“I think it is a fundamental right for religious groups to organize on campus,” she said. “However, I don’t think that they should be able to be disruptive to students trying to go to class or outright offend anyone like what happened last year when one religious guy made super racist comments. That’s not okay.”

The University’s policy states that “any act by demonstrators or groups which interferes with the rights of others, disrupts the normal functioning of CSU, damages property or endangers health or safety is grounds for suspension or dismissal from the University and/or removal from University property.”

The policy also advises that “demonstrations are prohibited in any special-use facility, classroom and in any place or manner that interferes with educational and other normal functions and operations of the institution.”

When asked if religious groups and school organizations such as clubs or fraternities violate this policy, Hodges said it is debatable.

“Basically, my opinion is that it’s their right (to gather) as long as they don’t impede students in any way that could affect them academically,” she said.

Students have complained about disruptions and pushy people approaching them in the Plaza since anyone can remember. Junior Hannah Aarons said she has been begged to join a sorority every semester since she started going to CSU as a freshman.

“I have been approached every semester by tons of people wanting me to join their sorority, and I’ve started to dread the walk from the LSC,” she said.

Grant Wulf, a sophomore engineering major, said it is not a problem to be approached, but the tactics that people use to spread their message could be improved.

“I would say these people (religious organizations) have every right to try and spread their beliefs to other people, but some of their methods I don’t agree with,” he said. “For instance, they will tell you that you are going to Hell if you don’t follow Christ, regardless of what your previous religious beliefs are.”

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Wulf said a more amiable conversation would be more effective.

“I feel they can give a better approach on opening up a conversation about joining the church, rather than giving an insisting tone,” he said. 

Regardless of the mixed student opinions regarding free speech at CSU, as long as people are following the rules, they are here to stay.

Collegian Reporter Katy Mueller can be contacted at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @katymueller13.