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Students take to The Oval to call attention to free speech

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Students sign a large, inflatable beach ball on The Oval in an effort to promote free speech on campus on Sept. 14. Credit: Summer Cartwright | Lantern Reporter

Students sign a large, inflatable beach ball on The Oval in an effort to promote free speech on campus on Sept. 14. Credit: Summer Cartwright | Lantern Reporter

Students’ daily walk across The Oval this week might include a stop at a 12-foot-by-12-foot beach ball. Though the warm air welcomes it, the ball is being used as a social tool — rather than a toy — to draw attention to free speech on campus.

The Ohio State chapters of Young Americans for Liberty and Students for Liberty are putting on a series of campus outreach initiatives to gain support and spread their message that free speech matters for students.

YAL and SFL have the ability to choose what social issue or topic to focus on, and this semester the clubs agreed that freedom of speech was the most pressing issue across college campuses.

“We want to set a precedent at OSU that we support free speech on campus and that any student regardless of their religious views, political views … (has) a right to express themselves on campus,” said Reagan Brooks, a third-year in marketing and co-president of YAL.

OSU spokesman Ben Johnson offered the following written statement:

“The Ohio State University is a place for discussion and debate of diverse viewpoints. University faculty and staff work hard to build a culture of inclusion, equity and appreciation for diverse peoples and ideas. The university values peaceful and respectful discourse and strives to create a truly open forum in which diverse opinions can be expressed and heard.”

On Wednesday and Thursday, the members of the two organizations asked students to write whatever they please on the beach ball, as an act of free speech.

Students were asked to sign a petition in support of the university, as well as endorsing and agreeing to a statement regarding free speech for students on campus.

“Our current goal is to get 200 student signatures and a little over a dozen clubs to sign on to it,” said Reagan Brooks’ brother, Reese Brooks, also a third-year in marketing and co-president of YAL. “It’s a free speech statement that says that students at Ohio State University have a right to free speech on campus.”

The statement has paragraphs that focus on OSU agreeing to “respect concerns about civility and mutual respect,” which “can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.”

The university could regulate the time, place and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities, according to the statement.

Another major focus of SFL and YAL is creating an atmosphere of respect for students, regardless of views, religions and backgrounds.

“We need to be open to considering other people’s perspectives and not shut down perspectives that we don’t necessarily agree with. We need to respect other individuals,” said Todd Nesbit, an economics professor and the adviser for SFL.

Reese Brooks said that although he thinks OSU does a relatively good job providing students on campus the opportunity to have free speech, the club would like the statement to be signed in order to maintain these freedoms for students.

Students involved said they plan on working to get the statement seen by the OSU administration as soon as possible.

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