ASG’s Stance on Free speech Is Unacceptable
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The flags of U.S. embassies throughout the Middle East are burning as America’s constitutional promise of free speech is put to a global test. Four American lives have been lost as protestors denounced a film that deliberately denigrates Islam and its founder, Muhammad.
In spite of the rage directed against our nation, Americans have remained steadfast in defending the First Amendment rights of the film makers. Most acknowledge that as offensive and provocative as this film is, freedom of speech is one of the most sacred principles of this nation and must be defended, no matter the cost.
Now it seems senseless that while Americans are dying abroad, the Associated Student Government is trying to remove one of its own senators in violation of his free speech rights here at Fresno City College.
Ironically, this transgression against the First Amendment is being perpetrated by the very organization that touts itself as ‘the voice of the students’. In moving to impeach ASG Sen. James Demaree on trumped up charges for voicing his dissent on YouTube, ASG shows a blatant disregard for the current situation evolving in the Middle East; additionally, their actions constitute a slap in the face to the very Constitution which they swore to protect.
To be certain, Demaree posted no images of Muhammed, nor did he incite rage from anyone but his colleagues in the ASG. His speech may have been controversial and even offensive, but he has a right to speak it. It is a privilege derived from blood of precious American soldiers who have fought to preserve the rights.
The editorial staff of the Rampage does not endorse any of the content of Demaree’s speech, and many of us strongly disagree with the things he has said, but we too believe that freedom of speech is worth fighting for, and if we don’t fight for it at the lowest level, how can we complain when it is violated on bigger stages?
To veil their attempts at egregiously violating the First Amendment rights of Demaree, ASG has searched its constitution, bylaws, and the district’s administrative regulations for any and all ways to kick him out of office. What they came up with was lack-luster and poorly constructed.
ASG’s first charge against Demaree, and the one which most profoundly violates his constitutional rights, is “Behavior unbecoming of an ASG senator.” That ‘unbecoming behavior’ of course is his YouTube and Facebook posts criticizing the ASG as well as for posting memes and other content that some have said could alienate students based on race and sexual orientation. To validate this claim ASG cited the District’s Board of Trustee’s policy on restrictions on “disruptive behavior”, “willful disobedience”, and “persistent defiance of the authority of college personnel.”
However, apparently ASG only read the first half of this legislation, as it goes on to state that this regulation applies only to infractions committed when students are on campus, or are at school sponsored or authorized events off campus. Demaree posted all of these “unbecoming” comments from his home bestowing his speeche with all protections granted by the First Amendment of the Constitution.
Furthermore, ASG should be uniform in applying its rules. If ASG construes what Demaree posted as inflammatory and intolerant, then why are other ASG members, especially members of the Executive Board, who are supposedly superiors to the senators, not accountable for the content of their Facebook pages and YouTube channels.
So if, for instance, Mike Wilson, the Student Trustee of the ASG, posts a meme which appears to stereotype Mexicans as gang bangers who don’t know how to speak proper English, then he would be subject to the same penalties and be charged the same way Demaree was, right?
Well it just happens that Wilson posted that meme on Aug. 28. However, no charges or disciplinary actions have been instituted against Wilson.
What if another ASG Executive Board member, like 19-year-old Executive Vice President Caitlin Mac had pictures of herself flashing her bra to a camera with a half empty bottle of hard liquor in the foreground? That would be considered “behavior unbecoming of an ASG executive officer”, right? Well, again, it just so happens that Mac has those pictures which were posted on May 17 just weeks after being elected to office, and available to the public on her Facebook page.
So it seems that “Behavior unbecoming of an ASG senator” only applies to people whom the executive board does not like, or who voice opinions that are unfavorable to the student government. What the ASG is running is a sham, masquerading as democracy.
The second and third charges against Demaree are just as ridiculous, and lack even more factual basis than the prior. James Demaree was allegedly uncooperative with Legislative Vice President Rachel McKinley in scheduling office hours and never contacted her. Email records show the opposite; Demaree did contact her with his schedule and still, his office hours were arranged in conflict with his class schedule. How was he supposed to fulfill obligations that defeat his main purpose for being here?
The final charge is that he did not attend Welcome Week, an ASG sponsored event. This charge stands no ground because the event was not mandatory.
More disheartening is the fact that during these proceedings, as ASG, led by its executive board, moved to strike him from office, not one senator stood up for or even uttered the words “free speech”.
As students, we can’t help but wonder if our elected student government can really call themselves, ‘the voice of the students’ if they cannot stand up for the values that protect us?
Or is it more apt to call the ASG ‘the voice of the students who happen to have the same sociopolitical opinions as our leadership… of the students’? An organization, which only a year ago, made diversity its biggest goal and accomplishment, has now descended to attacking the first amendment rights of its members?
What’s next? Or rather, Who’s next?