Missouri Student Assoc VP: ‘Tired’ Of Hearing 1st Amendment Protects Students Creating ‘Hostile and Unsafe’ Environment

University of Missouri Students Association Vice President Brenda Smith-Lezana said, “I personally am tired of hearing that First Amendment rights protect students when they are creating a hostile and unsafe learning environment” on Tuesday’s broadcast of “MSNBC Live.”

Smith-Lezana was asked, we have tensions simmering at Yale University, protests erupted at that university because an email was sent to students urging them not to wear racially offensive Halloween costumes, and one professor complained that universities are becoming places of ‘censure and prohibition.’ What’s your feeling? Do you believe that that’s a place that we’re heading for [on] American campuses now, a place of censure and prohibition?”

She responded, “I personally am tired of hearing that First Amendment rights protect students when they are creating a hostile and unsafe learning environment for myself and for other students here. I think that it’s important for us to create that distinction and create a space where we can all learn from one another, and start to create a place of healing rather than a place where we are experiencing a lot of hate, like we have in the past.”

Earlier, Smith-Lezama said that new steps by the school’s board of curators on the school’s Columbia campus are “absolutely a start. I think that it’s very important for us to have representation of minority staff and faculty here at the University of Missouri. Too often we go time and time again without having professors, mental health staff, different staff members, who look like us sitting on our campus. And I think that that’s something that makes a huge difference.”

Smith-Lezama also stated of photographers being kicked out of the campsite where protests were occurring, and the fact that students have apologized and are handing out flyers referring to the incident as a “teachable moment” and saying the media has the right to cover the protests and should be welcomed, “I’m really happy that this has been able to be used as a teachable moment. I think that it’s very important for us to remember that at the basic level we all are human, first and foremost. I actually was on site during this altercation, during this incident, and what wasn’t shown during this video is that several members of the media were very pushy, a little bit to the point of aggressive, while trying to approach us, while we were in the circle right after Tim Wolfe announced his resignation. I think the staff members that did speak up did so number one, because they wanted to protect their students who were being hurt, who were in pain, so I think that it’s a teachable moment for all of us. But I also think it’s for us important to remember that, as student journalists, you cannot approach these type of situations with hostility and with anger, because it only escalates the situation.

(h/t Real Clear Politics)

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett


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