ABAC’s administration has unveiled new rule, created without input from students and without a committee to discuss it, requiring any Facebook pages for clubs and organizations containing the words “ABAC” or “Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College” to add a staff member of ABAC as an administrator on that page.
The rationale is that the college needs the ability to remove any material that might possibly be harmful to the school’s image.
However, this threatens students’ rights of free speech.
As the chairman of the College Republicans and a writer for The Stallion, I pride myself in being able to offer an opinion on a certain philosophy. I respect and enjoy hearing differing philosophies from those around me, but politics by nature is confrontational, and something that many people take seriously.
If the ABAC Republicans, the College Democrats of ABAC or even The Baptist Collegiate Ministry of ABAC were to post something to their Facebook pages and someone finds those posts offensive, will the school take it upon itself to remove the content? That is the power that ABAC is now demanding from the clubs.
As college students, we are still trying to get the hang of this thing called “life.” We are in school to get a better education so that we can become successful, make money, get married, have a family and enjoy our time upon this earth. We are associating with others of like mind, often using such tools as Facebook, and exploring our limits.
Not so long ago, a philosopher wrote that man is endowed by nature with three rights that cannot be taken away — Life, Liberty, and Property. These ideas were given further flesh in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. As stated in the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech….”
These words have become so engrained into our society that often times we forget to consider what they mean. While we pride ourselves in the ability to say what we wish, we run into the fact that, often times, we are not as free as we believe ourselves to be.
The structure at ABAC serves as a microcosm of the country. We have the rights and ability to follow just laws and rules so long as they do not violate laws above them. We are now faced with a violation of free speech at ABAC. As the chairman of a politically oriented club on campus, I am shocked by the attempt to restrict abilities of clubs to speak freely in a public forum.
Those who want this new rule state that if a club or organization were to become inactive, someone needs the ability to control the Facebook material. This is a valid concern. However, if club presidents conduct themselves in a professional manner, there will be no issue. The school already has the ability to view posts and request that they be removed, and if there is a logical reason for doing so, it can be done by the club/organization or their advisor.
However, asking for unbarred access to a Facebook page created and maintained by the group is like your parents sending you a letter informing you that you are now required to ask permission before spending a dime on anything. As an adult, you appreciate their insight, but as an adult, you are free to succeed and fail on your own.
This is an attempt to control what is said in a public forum by free individuals. As a Republican, I disagree with those of the Democratic Party, but I do not try to silence them or their opinions. It is an individual’s choice to decide what they believe in, and I will stand next to and fight side by side with even my worst enemy to give them the right to say what they believe.
This reporter has it on very good authority that members of ABAC Staff are monitoring Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media, looking specifically for negative comments about the school. While we understand administrative desire to address concerns, this monitoring, when considered in conjunction with the proposed Facebook rules, raises the fear that administrators are empowering themselves to surveil and silence concerns of students.
If ABAC truly hopes to prepare students for life and liberty, it can best do so by allowing students to speak freely and trusting them to take responsibility for their own words and their own Facebook pages.