The arrival of outside demonstrators at Tech last week, sparked a discussion on campus about free speech as several student groups organized counter-protests and alternate programming. Among the most controversial parts of the Southeast Preachers Associations (SOPA) comments were those made against gays and lesbians, which many students called anti-gay and hateful.
So these people, due to their first amendment free speech laws are allowed to come out here and preach hate and we figured it would not be right if some Tech students did not come out and preach love as well, said Schuyler Cottrell, a first year ME student and counter-protestor.
One particular issue was the attempted scheduling of a drum circle near the small amphitheater, often called the free speech area. According to Lisa Ray Grovenstein, Media Relations Director, Capital Planning and Space Management denied a request for students to play drums during SOPAs event.
Since playing the drums would have been either disruptive or would have interfered with the lawful use of the free speech space, the request was not approved, Grovenstein said.
Despite this, several students exercised their speech rights in a counterprotest. Around a hundred students sat in the bleachers of the amphitheater, holding signs saying things such as Jesus had two dads and you had me at meat tornado, and engaging with the demonstrators.
According to Techs Free Expression policy, Georgia Tech holds the first amendment guarantees of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and the right to assemble peaceably as an essential cornerstone to the advancement of knowledge and the right of a free people.
What you need to remember is the policy is that we are for free speech and we dont try to control the content of anybodys speech, said Gary Wolovick, an attorney for the Office of Legal Affairs.
Although outside groups must be allowed to demonstrate on campus, outside groups must reserve space in advance, and the spaces they can reserve are usually limited to the Free Speech Areas, usually the small amphitheater where SOPA was demonstrating.
The procedure really has to do with time place and manner, Wolovick said. It really has to do with making sure that the space isnt being used by somebody else or that space is adequate.
Tech students and staff are less limited in the time and places they can protest, demonstrate or otherwise exercise their free speech rights.
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Examining the free speech area on campus