Support the Young Progressives’ free speech petition

Gabby Lescadre

If the last SGA elections taught us anything, it’s that UVM students are all about democracy.

Seeing how widespread political involvement is on campus, UVM’s rigid policies on political activity are hard to believe.

Student advocates believe now is the time for that change.

The Young Progressives of Vermont announced a petition April 5 for a SGA resolution to reform campus policies on canvassing in residence halls.

They are advocating for “an updated, clear, concise and streamlined policy” regarding the display and spread of political speech on campus.

The petition focuses largely on protected political speech within residence halls as protected by the First Amendment, according to the petitions page.

Protection for students’ right to free speech should not cease to exist once a student swipes their CATCard at the doors of their dormitory.

The main activity that needs protection is door-to-door canvassing in residence halls. Some precautions include that the canvasser must be a UVM student, a resident of the building and must sign in with their CATCard at the front desk.

The petition also tasks SGA with forming a special committee to guarantee the safety of UVM students and make recommendations on this policy change.

As a representation of the student body, SGA is our greatest vessel for change.

The Young Progressives’ petition states that SGA supports the First Amendment rights of students, but by standing idle while policies restrict them, they are not complying with this claim.

If SGA does support students’ rights as they claim, this resolution for free political speech on campus is a reasonable and adaptable resolution.

Activities such as door-to-door canvassing and postering in dorms are halted by regulations on campus.

Yet, both are great ways to get our students motivated toward political engagement.

American University, named the most politically active campus in the U.S. by the 2019 Princeton Review, has policies similar to the ones being proposed in this petition.

According to the American University student conduct code, authorized AU students involved in political advocacy or activity are free to canvas door-to-door on campus.

At UVM, canvassing activities in residence halls are not approved, according to the FAQ page of Residential Life’s website.

This resolution would protect student activists’ inherent First Amendment right to express their political views in their residence halls.

The fact that we live in a residential community should not make our voices any less legitimate or protected. Canvassing, signs and posters are protected free speech under the First Amendment.

Political opinions, mainstream or controversial, should be allowed on campus, as they would be in the world just outside of it. Politics don’t stop when we swipe into our dorms.

Free speech should continue to be protected and encouraged in our residential lives.