Forum examines rights and responsibilities of free speech

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    Students discussed free speech and TCU demographics Monday night at the first “What’s Now” dialogue, an open forum designed to facilitate campus-wide conversation over controversial issues.

    Don Jackson, professor emeritus for the political science department and Amiso George, associate professor of strategic communication, led group discussion.

    Jackson spoke on the communal right to free speech and George emphasized the responsibilities and consequences of free speech.

    “The discussion was very productive and the students were very enthusiastic and involved,” said George.

    “I think they left with a motivation to talk about issues like these in the TCU community,” George said.

    Sophomore history major Lauren Mackson said that the atmosphere of the “What’s Now” discussion was very inviting and she felt comfortable sharing her opinions.

    “I thought we had a really great conversation about both the ethical and legal perspectives of free speech,” Mackson said.

    “It was a great, open environment and I was able to talk and learn others’ perspectives,” she said.

    George quoted Greek philosopher Aristotle to demonstrate the idea of creating a positive and respectful atmosphere despite differing opinions.

    “Aristotle said that it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it, and that is what we are trying to encourage here,” George said.

    Students also discussed the role of free speech through protests in today’s society. One student remarked that protesting with signs seems “almost archaic” as more students are flocking to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to express their opinions.

    However, senior political science major Alexis Lohse said that she and a group of friends recently protested outside of Paschal High School.

    Lohse said that an anti-abortion group was using graphic images on signs she called “disgusting and inappropriate.” Lohse said she and her friends countered with pictures of puppies and kittens in an effort to counter negative free speech with positive free speech.

    Students also discussed how some consider TCU to be a mono-cultural environment because of the student demographics. Many students agreed that it’s important to engage in open dialogue with people who have alternative viewpoints.

    Chuck Dunning, director of Senior Transitions, added to this discussion by citing research that proves the more time an individual spends with like-minded people, the less moral reasoning he or she will have.

    Dunning is one of the staff members in charge of the future of the “What’s Now” program and hopes the program will help promote open discussion among students in the TCU community in the future.

    “This is not a debate, this is an opportunity to promote active dialogue throughout the student body,” said Dunning.

    “Eventually I’m hoping for a shift in TCU culture that encourages meaningful and respectful conversations about difficult topics,” he said.

    The next “What’s Now” forum will take place in April, with a specific date and topic yet to be announced. Students are encouraged to tweet #ICareTCU with ideas of topics to discuss at the next forum.