Apr 29th, 2017, 12:10 PM

Freedom of Speech on Campus

By Kathleen Nixon
Image Credit: Flickr/LaVladina
Is free speech supported at AUP?

Freedom of speech is a very complex concept. It is also a topic of great importance, that can, and is interpreted very differently, depending on every individual’s point of view. However, no matter the interpretation, everyone can agree that it is a fundamental right. Due to the fact that the American University of Paris is a community made up of a wide variety of cultures, religions, and ideals, we have the opportunity to experience different opinions and ways of expression through these different perspectives. While you might feel comfortable voicing your opinions, ave you ever stopped and wondered if the person sitting in class beside you feels the same way?

"Do you feel like it's easy to speak out, and openly talk on any given subject, or matter, at the AUP campus?”

Image Credit: Flickr/Ahdieh Ashrafi

Freshman Katherin Lopez from Guatemala says that since AUP is a very liberal university, she feels there is a lot of freedom in what you can say and express. In terms of faculty and students, we all know there is a lot of diversity around us, and Katherine feels everyone respects that, “therefore making it a place where one can say whatever comes to mind, and not feel cornered.”

Within international communities, as students emerged in a world filled with nationalities, we usually intend to find a balance and lean towards those that are culturally attuned to us. "Everyone is good about being open, but there are many groups and cliques that form within certain groups and nationalities”, says Kirsten Flagg.

Henry Nam Hardwick, a transfer student from Hellenic College Holy Cross in Brookline, Massachusetts, personally believes that the American University of Paris is very tolerant and open minded. “For instance, I am a devout Christian whose faith is very dear to me, and I am able to share and discuss it with my peers whether they are of a different religion, or not religious at all, without fear of being judged or harassed.” Hardwick was adopted from Vietnam and was raised in the United States, and feels that AUP’s cultural events, such as SAID’s “Culture?”, opens a space where it is safe for different individuals to convey their feelings, and help them learn about themselves and those around them.

However, Hardwick states that the only time it’s not easy to “speak out” on campus is when the subject concerns politics. “Not that I’m worried about how others would react to differing opinions, it’s just that there’s a certain status quo that’s easiest just to maintain.” Henry went on to explain that he had an interviewee ask that she “not be mentioned at all” within an article he was writing after telling him her viewpoint on the immigration issue in Sweden, because “the school is very clear in its position [on the issue],” making her feel uncomfortable if she was identified as having a contrasting view.

On the subject of politics, graduate student Patricia Molinos feels that a hard subject to talk about in her own experience at AUP is Catalonian independence. Born and raised in Barcelona, Molinos has tried to talk to many teachers from the Politics department but says the topic has been avoided by all of them whenever she tries to introduce something on the subject.

Despite occasional disagreements, he majority of students answers showed that the American University of Paris was rather open to any conversation, and allowed a safe space when wanting to talk about any subject that came to mind. Freshman Beatriz Spencer, believes AUP is a very tolerant place to speak openly. She says, “as long as it is free of hate and ignorance, there is always a place here.” Sophomore Hedvig Werner says she can definitely talk to anyone at school if there is a particular issue she feels should be discussed. “It depends on the topic. I wouldn’t be talking about my personal issues with someone I barely know, but definitely social or political issues. There is definitely an arena for that,” she shared.

Freedom of speech, and how exactly each individual expresses his or her thoughts, relates directly to personal comfort in a space or community. For Freshman Marly Phillips, it also has to do with confidence. He said, “I feel quite confident in myself, so I feel fairly confident in saying what I would like, to who I would like to say it to, so in that sense, I feel I am very free to express myself at this school. I assume it may be hard for someone who may not be very comfortable." It must also be considered that a thin line exists between feeling free to say what comes to mind and being a destructive person. Phillips also emphasizes that, due to the fact that the school hosts students speaking many languages, it is really important to choose your words cautiously when wanting to make a point.

It is truly important to fight for your right of expression, and keep in mind that having the opportunity to emerge yourself within an ocean of cultures, and differences, will allow you to find new ways in which you can make your ideas and thoughts known. There are various ways in which you can express yourself—if something is important to you, it is clear that, at AUP, your voice can be heard.