Harassment from preachers is not protected by the First Amendment

Emily Myler

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board. Letters to the Editor reflect the view of a member of the campus community and are submitted to the publication for approval. Emily Myler is copy chief of The Collegian.

Dear Editor,

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I’m writing in response to the letter “Here’s what you should know about campus free speech,” published Sept. 19.

In this letter, Associated Students of Colorado State University President Trystan Syron and Dean of Students Jody Donovan rightly advocated for freedom of speech at our public university.

However, I feel that the incidents on the Plaza — in which preachers are allowed to stand on our Stump and berate students because of their identities — go beyond the protections of freedom of speech and have become harassment.

The preachers on the Stump call my friends and I whores and make comments on our bodies and clothes. As a straight, White person, I cannot speak for my fellow students of color or those in the LGBTQ community, but as a woman, I feel unsafe and intimidated by this hostility.

Last weekend I sat down and completed an online sexual harassment course required by the University for my new position as copy chief of The Collegian

If you’re unfamiliar with this program, think of it like the course new students take on safe alcohol use. I didn’t particularly want to spend an hour of my weekend learning about state and University policy, but I told myself I might need to know these things someday.

I feel that day has come.

The behavior on the Plaza is detrimental to our education and undermines the work CSU put into making our campus welcoming to all identities.”

Harassment is defined as conduct which is hostile towards a person or group based on an identity, including gender identity and expression, according to the University’s policy titled “Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Stalking and Retaliation.”

The policy states that harassment must be considered unwelcome by a reasonable person and create a hostile environment which affects educational or work opportunities. 

I just want to get to my classes, yet I cannot avoid the attacks of a stranger which my University has allowed into my life.

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Exposure to new ideas is one thing, but we are not paying outrageous tuition to be berated for wearing leggings on the way to class.

CSU’s policy protects all members of the university including employees, students and visitors, from discrimination, which adversely affects their employment, education or living environment. The behavior on the Plaza is detrimental to our education and undermines the work CSU put into making our campus welcoming to all identities.

Freedom of speech is important, but is not all-encompassing. According to the CSU policy titled “Free Speech and Peaceful Assembly,” the First Amendment does not protect speech or conduct intended to harass, annoy or alarm another person.

Encounters with the preachers on the Plaza can range from amusingly obnoxious to downright frightening. I know these situations must be handled with care, but I feel justified in demanding the opportunity to walk to class without harassment. 

Emily Myler,

Senior, communication studies major

The Collegian’s opinion desk can be reached at letters@collegian.com. To submit a letter to the editor, please follow the guidelines at collegian.com.