I’m going to take a break from my regular “handwritten” format to focus on something really important to me: the very freedom that allows me to write my thoughts in this blog. I’m sure most of you reading this are aware of the recent events at Mizzou. If not, this is a great way to catch up.
Before I write more, I want to make an important distinction: what I’m about to say has nothing to do with my opinions about #ConcernedStudent1950, the hunger strike or the resignations of Tim Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin. This is purely about one incident that happened as a result of the movement.
Yesterday, as the protestors on Carnahan Quad found out about the resignation of Tim Wolfe, the media–CNN, NBC, The New York Times and ESPN, just to name a few–descended on the campsite to get footage, interviews and photos for their stories. In other words, the journalists were doing their jobs. It was an important story, one that the country should know, and they were there to exercise their first amendment-given rights to tell it.
In the midst of the chaos, MU Communications Professor Melissa Click aided students in creating a human barricade around the celebrations. To add insult to injury, she was directly blocking out a student journalist. The activist students involved argued that “this movement isn’t for you” (speaking to the media) via the @CS_1950 Twitter account. Janna Basler, the director of Greek Life at MU, said, “You are infringing on what they need right now, which is to be alone.” Protestors even shouted at reporters, saying, “Hey ho, hey ho, reporters have got to go.”
See for yourself.
Many of my fellow journalism major friends who wanted to document the event, some of whom were doing projects as class assignments, told me that protestors were hostile towards them as well.
Their passion doesn’t upset me. Their adamance doesn’t upset me. But the blatant hypocrisy does. And despite the fact that I’m not normally a politically-charged person, I hope it upsets you, too.
In a movement largely founded–if not exclusively founded–on the right to petition and protest, who is anyone to say that other equally-protected rights are nullified?
At a university so famous for its journalism, why did a communications professor feel that she had the right to choose, as Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder put it, the “rights, viewpoints and freedoms” that students respect?
If activists were so eager to make the country aware of their struggle, why were they hostile towards the people whose job it is to tell that story?
All of these attitudes were from people here at Mizzou, home to the first and finest journalism school in the country. The school that I’ve been dreaming about coming to since I wrote my first news article when I was 13. The school who wrote the Journalists Creed and requires its students to memorize the First Amendment by heart. The school that cares so much about free speech, we have a place on campus specifically dedicated to it. While I have loved, and still do, the experience I’ve had at Mizzou, my 13-year-old self would be so disheartened and disenchanted if she saw what happened yesterday. And as a result, my 20-year-old self is sad and disheartened, too.
This is not to say that its the J-School’s fault. In fact, Dean Kurpius’ comments about the incident were incredibly insightful and encouraging, and I stand with the school’s decision to review Professor Click’s position in regards to the journalism school. I stand by Tim Tai, the student who Click attempted to hold back.
I also stand with the First Amendment. All of it. I’m so thankful that I go to a school where students are free to raise their voices, and a school where students use that freedom for the change they want to see. However, using that freedom does not, and should not, justify depriving others of their rights. Stories are stories. Rights are rights. Students are students. Freedoms are freedoms.