“I always feel like somebody’s watching me,” say the lyrics of the popular 90s song by Rockwall. At University of Missouri today, this is more than just a feeling. University Police are asking students to report anyone who uses “hurtful speech.”
In an email that was flagged by several Missouri-based journalists, the MUPD asked “individuals who witness incidents of hateful and/or hurtful speech or actions” to call the department’s general phone line “to continue to ensure that the University of Missouri campus remains safe.” They suggest that students provide a detailed description of the offender, their location or license plate number, and even to take a picture if possible.
The validity of the e-mail was verified by medialite.com, and a spokesman from the University said this in response to a question about First Amendment rights being violated by this action:
“We are simply asking them to report what they feel is hurtful and/or hateful speech.”
He added that the police did not consider the hateful speech “a criminal matter.” However, “We also work for the University and uphold the Universities Rules and Regulations.”
Political Outcast posted about the events of the last week with the hunger strike of graduate student John Butler, the threat of the football team to not play until the President of the University resigned yesterday. After all that has transpired, it seems that increasing the police presence on the campus is not going to help the situation. But, the government has a little problem with handling protest situations.
History provides us with lessons of when authorities begin stifling the speech of citizens. The Nazis burned books to put a stop to the public being exposed to ideas contrary to the Third Reich. It wasn’t that long ago in the 1960s that today’s government leaders were college students who were protesting on a number of issues. Those protests would not have been tolerated if it weren’t for the right to free speech as protected by the First Amendment.
Now, a mere 50 years later, government authorities are asking citizens to turn on each other. Officials at a state university are asking students at Mizzou to tattle on their classmates, and the stakes are way higher than they were in pre-school. And, it seems like those officials don’t even understand why this action is a problem. The tide is turning in a way that is so scary, it is hard to know how to react. Prayer seems like a wise response, and we need to look for opportunities to pull our fellow citizens back to reasonable thinking and a re-education about the freedoms we claim to enjoy and appreciate.