Children have an interesting way of dealing with things they dislike. When they resent something they hear, they yell and scream things that are often not coherent, rational or related to what they heard in order to drown it out. Similarly, when they see or read something they dislike, their first instinct is to take whatever displeases them and destroy it.

The Georgetown Academy often receives similar treatment. Naysayers often attempt to drown it out, or simply steal the publication instead of dealing with the issues at hand. Others choose the easy path of vilification, selecting themselves as the university’s censors, to decide for everyone what is “offensive” and what is not – and thus avoid confronting and responding to what they have read by criminalizing it. They discredit satire as a useful tool for criticism, instead of recognizing how effective it can be.

This completely disregards Georgetown’s longstanding tradition of diverse thought and distinct, conflicting opinions. Students here constantly discuss and debate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the merits of the death penalty and the morality of abortion. In general, students abide by Georgetown’s Speech and Expression Policy, which states it is essential for students “to engage in unrestricted dialogue” in which “all ideas are expressed and considered.” Sadly, instead of responding to ideas it either dislikes or cannot fully comprehend, a select minority at Georgetown occasionally attempts to silence the voices it disagrees with, instead of pondering, analyzing and responding. That minority subversively removes publications and persecutes the source of those ideas – and by doing so denies Georgetown its right to think. No one is expected to agree with and like everything published on campus, or even read it. No one, however, should interfere with another’s ability to do so.

In stealing a publication, the culprits take more than a few bound pages of cheap paper – they take the heart and soul of Georgetown. Our university is defined by the diversity of ideas that is inherent in our student body and faculty. Georgetown is renowned for its open forums of debate and variety of opinions, and when these are interfered with they are also threatened. Our traditions are built on the variety of ethnic, cultural, religious and political differences present here. Silencing one is an affront not only to our marketplace of ideas, but also to the idea of the university itself. Georgetown should remember a saying, popularly attributed to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” The university has an obligation to punish those who interfere with campus publications, either through the Office of Student Conduct or other measures. Georgetown must fight to remain a citadel of free thought and opinion, or risk losing the values it holds so dear. Stealing any publication is a direct affront to Georgetown’s speech and expression policy, and one that cannot be tolerated.

The statement “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” holds true for campus publications, and no one can proclaim himself campus censor like Terrence Boyle does in his article (“GU Must Protect Students, Not Offensive Speech,” Nov. 15, 2002, The Hoya, p.3) exemplifying the “vilification” he was decrying. Mr. Boyle, on a fundamental level, is blaming the victim, attacking The Academy as it tries to heal its wounds from the recent troubling theft. The entire staff of The Academy was offended by the trumped-up and fictitious charges presented in his article, but no copies of The Hoya were “sequestered” for evaluation by the university, even though they contain speech that could easily be deemed “indecent.” Georgetown must ensure that no one is prevented from thinking and reasoning for himself – a right stolen when another’s opinion is silenced. The Academy has never asked anyone to agree with what it publishes – only not to interfere with the ability to do so. Academy members invest time and resources in door-to-door distributions, and having issues stolen is hard for a publication on a shoestring budget.

Free and open discourse is perhaps the most important part of student life at Georgetown, and one that cannot be taken for granted. Students must be guaranteed the right to publicly express their views and opinions to others without the threat of having those opinions vilified or silenced. Protecting this right is a responsibility the university community must not take lightly, for we must all fight for our right to think.

Matt Mauney is a sophomore in the College.

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