The theme of the week appears to be finding less overt ways to block access to the Free Expression Tunnel. It turns out that locking arms and physically preventing students from passing through the FET also cuts shuts down the only handicap-accessible tunnel on campus (and is also a far worse violation of students’ rights than is scribbling an offensive drawing, and also puts protesters at the real risk of committing assault, not that university officials would mention those things).
Anti-FE(T) activists are now bleating for prior university approval of tunnel graffiti, and Thomas Stafford, the vice chancellor for student affairs at NC State, is wanting a week without speech in the FET (that is, if he can get the “right people” and “right groups” on board).
Now Chancellor Randy “No Problem Too Small” Woodson is offering another pacifier: adding a “diversity course” to the university’s general education requirements.
Meanwhile, student editors at Technician are defending the importance of the tunnel and free speech in several staff editorials. Kudos to them, especially for this NCSU-tradition-minded defense of the tunnel:
… It could be argued that the Free Expression tunnel is not required for the function of the University, but it is has become a part of the University’s culture and identity. Whether students agree or not, the Free Expression Tunnel is something unique that sets the University apart in terms of freedom. The University gives students space on its property to deface, beautify or use to their own purpose without restraint. Not many students can boast their universities allow that.
Ultimately, the Free Expression Tunnel is a symbolic expression of students. It is a collage of different points of view, varying skill levels and levels of involvement. It is an expression of things that happen on campus. Students asking why we need the Free Expression Tunnel should ask what they want to express, not just in the Free Expression Tunnel.
Students’ asking the University to shut down the Free Expression Tunnel is sad. For the selfish desire of security from opposite points of view, they want it silenced. But shutting it down would be a symbolic blow to free expression of all students, including themselves. Next time theses students walk through the tunnel, they should write what they think, not think to silence what others write.