ASWU and the freedom of speech: intellectual echo chamber?

Madison Habersetzer | Guest Columnist

Several weeks ago, I was nominated by my fellow students to speak at Whitworth’s 2019 undergraduate commencement ceremony. I made it to the final round of auditions and thoughtfully crafted and delivered my speech. Thankfully, my speech was not chosen because ASWU’s recent behavior has compromised my point. The topic of my speech was freedom of speech and civil discourse. In this speech, I praised Whitworth University as a “stalwart protector of freedom of speech” and said that its “strength is its ability to unify intellectual diversity through a common mission of honoring God, following Christ, and serving humanity.” While I have been pleased to find that many faculty and staff at Whitworth have chosen to support the preservation of freedom of speech on campus, ASWU has abandoned this constitutional value and made the fatal leap toward censorship.

Last year, ASWU created a new policy that requires all speakers and artists hosted by clubs to be approved by the club chartering committee, the Director of Student Activities, and the ASWU assembly. This bureaucratic power grab is an outrageous infringement on freedom of speech and compromises intellectual integrity at Whitworth. No ideas should be off limits for intellectual discussion and debate, especially at a university. Good ideas stand up under scrutiny, and bad ideas crumble. ASWU has decided that intellectual homogeneity is more comfortable than disagreement and has sacrificed diversity of thought upon the altar of political correctness. In his famous work Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury once wrote, “So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless.” In denying clubs the right to host various speakers who may hold unpopular opinions on campus, ASWU has proven that it prefers poreless, hairless, expressionless wax moon faces and the comfort of living in an intellectual echo chamber to dynamic debate. We cannot allow this abuse of power to continue. ASWU must be held accountable for its role in censorship, and this policy should be overturned immediately.

CORRECTION: This article was previously posted as a Whitworthian Opinions article. That is incorrect, it is a letter to the editor.