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Clemson University’s ‘disdain’ for freedom of expression

When President Donald Trump attacked the Islamic faith by banning all refugees and all visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, he assaulted a pillar of America’s constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression: religious freedom.
Assertions that this isn’t a Muslim ban are fallacious. Senior Trump aide Rudy Giuliani said that Trump’s goal for this policy was to ban Muslims, and President Trump affirmed this throughout his campaign. Despite this incontrovertible reality, Clemson University administrators — who have justified past decisions by citing freedom of expression — and free speech warriors were silent on the ban’s immorality.
Clemson’s inaction facilitated an attack on members of the Clemson Family, exposed the fraudulence of free speech advocates on campus and sent a message that further damages free expression. Fortunately, there is still time to stand up for freedom of expression
and decency.

Clemson’s inaction is a defense of political correctness and inoffensiveness, not freedom of expression. If Clemson actually cared about freedom of expression, its administrators would have done more than issue instructional statements; its students would have demonstrated downtown to support Nazanin Zinouri’s return (the Clemson student denied entry into the U.S.); and its President would have joined over fifty other university presidents in a statement condemning the executive order, rather than simply signing a half-hearted, apolitical statement. Instead of exploiting these opportunities and standing up for freedom of expression, we chose the side of the oppressor and demonstrated indifference to the Clemson Family members impacted by Trump’s actions.
This indifference is a loss on multiple fronts. It may dissuade current students from voicing their opinions and discourage prospective students with diverse identities from applying to Clemson. Such consequences will perpetuate Clemson’s long history of ignoring diversity and serve to limit speech. Indeed, countless studies show diversity improves classroom discussions and assists the development of critical thinking skills and empathy. By not standing up for diversity and underrepresented forms of expression, Clemson, stained with hypocrisy, is saying it only welcomes the forms of expression with which it
is comfortable.
There are three steps the Clemson Family should take. First, students must support “The Fast Against Silence” by Clemson professors Todd May and Chenjerai Kumanyika. Beginning Feb. 6, they will be at Sikes Hall fasting for a week in protest of the Trump Administration’s actions and the Clemson Administration’s inaction. Second, we must become better listeners. Continuing to wage a war on reality by denying the discrimination and hate within the Clemson Family is counterproductive. Denying uncomfortable truths does not make them disintegrate nor does it constitute debate. It’s censure. Third, we must demand more of ourselves and our university. Email, call and speak with administrators and professors — ask them what they think about Trump’s actions and the University’s inaction. Both the Clemson and Trump Administration are supposed to work for all of us. As of now, both are only working for those who look like them.
Through silence, the Clemson Administration and free speech charlatans have demonstrated their indifference. And indifference, as Elie Wiesel said at the turn of the millennia, “is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor – never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten.” Clemson must stand up for freedom, cease benefiting the aggressor, and abandon the path of least offense, regardless of how uncomfortable or inconvenient this proves to be. Doing so would help the university unite the Clemson Family and live up to its reputation as a great institution. Existing in silence will sow greater division and erode its reputation.
If Clemson students, faculty, staff, alumni and administrators continue without resistance, we are all complicit in this deplorable censorship and every one of
its consequences.

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