As we all know, or hopefully know, freedom of speech protects our right to openly communicate our ideas whether they are intellectual or hateful, but that doesn’t mean anyone is obliged to listen to you. Previous commencement speak- ers such as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, International Mone- tary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali have all had a taste of this reality when students began protesting their respected Univer- sity’s choice to invite these individuals to speak on their graduation, but due to uproar and protests, their scheduled ap- pearance was canceled. Continue reading COMMENCEMENT SPEECHES ARE A PRIVILEGE, NOT A RIGHT
Only the city of San Francisco could make the President blush, like last Wednesday at the Nob Hill Masonic Center. President Barack Obama addressed over 2,000 supporters to raise money for the 2012 presidential campaign.
“I’m a few years older, a few years grayer,” President Obama said during his speech.
“That’s all right, you still fine!” a woman shouted from the back of the auditorium.
President Obama paused. A smile crept onto his face. He cleared his throat and regained his focus, and went on with the speech, visibly flattered by the comment.
That scene reflected the relaxed and personal atmosphere of the president’s speech.
Ruth Hammons, a 1955 graduate of San Francisco State University said, “It felt like he was at home. It felt like he is what we need.”
In between sarcastic comments, like having less Facebook friends than SpongeBob Squarepants, the President had a lot to say about his possible second term in the White House.
“I hate to be parochial, but I want us to have the best stuff,” President Obama said, “We have to out-build, out-educate, out-innovate the rest of the world.”
The best way to reach those goals, according to the President, is to invest in education, infrastructure, and new clean energies.
“The Secret Service doesn’t let me pump gas anymore, but I remember what it was like filling up.”
The President reiterated the importance of his new plan to raise taxes on American households earning more than $250,000 per year.
He said, “Because some of you bought my book, I fall into that category.” He added that allowing the wealthiest citizens to pay the same tax rates as less well-off citizens is “not a trade off I’m willing to make. We are better than that.”
Before the speech began, Professor Teresa Aldredge of Sacramento’s Consumnes River College said, “He has my vote. I’m a big advocate of education investments. In order to do that, then taxes are needed.” Aldredge then pulled her Presidential Partner card from her wallet. It was like a credit card, with a picture of President Obama and the white house on it. She got the card after donating to his campaign.
Her husband Ralph Aldredge, a professor of engineering at UC Davis, did not agree with raising taxes. He said, “I think he is focused on moving forward. I’m happy he has tried to make a difference.” But Aldredge felt raising taxes was not the most effective way to do it.
The crowd was a mix of concerned voters and those who came to just hear the President speak.
Vanessa Smith, originally from Boulder, Colo, said, “I came with zero expectations. I’m just really excited that I have the opportunity to see him.”
Tushani Illangasekari, a UCSF medical student from Sri Lanka said, “I think a lot of us are waiting with baited breath to hear what he will say, and what promises he will make.”
Nancy Pelosi, democrat Minority Leader of the House of Representatives and former Representative of San Francisco, attended the event. Pelosi spent most of her time in the auditorium surrounded by supporters, taking photos and shaking hands. She did not give a speech or address the crowd.
Former Mayor of San Francisco and current Lieutenant Governor of California, Gavin Newsom also attended the event. Newsom spent his first hour at the Masonic Center in the lobby, like Pelosi, taking photos with supporters and shaking hands.
He spoke with the Foghorn however, and said, “The Bay Area is one of the biggest ATM machine’s for [President Obama], so he wants to stay on message to rally support and rekindle the spirit of 2008.” Newsom thought the important talking points would be the deficit and health care.
The rally started with a speech by Organizing for America’s California Political Director Peggy Moore, who introduced the new slogan for the 2012 campaign “I’m in!”
After Moore, former 49ers wide receiver and pro football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice gave a speech. Wearing one of his three Super Bowl rings, Rice talked about the importance of hard work, dedication, teamwork, and energy, for both successful sports teams and successful presidential campaigns. He said Obama’s nomination is “more important than a Super Bowl ring and I don’t say that about many things.”
Goapele, R&B singer from Oakland, followed Rice. Her first song included the lyrics, “I know we can find a way/ if we start it today” and “I voted for a man who can lead us/ Obama’s his name.” She closed her set with a version of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.”
Tickets for the event ranged from $10,000, $2,500, $1,000, $250, and $25. Ticket sales were donations for President Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign.
Security was tight but not overbearing. Armed Secret Service agents, dressed in white shirts, black ties, and black slacks, checked bags and pockets a the door, and manned the metal detectors.
After getting into the Masonic Center, those who were over 21 could get red wristbands and buy either beer or wine. No political merchandise was available, either by sale or hand out.
President Obama wore a black suit with a gray tie and his signature American flag pin on his lapel.
After his speech, many people rushed to the front of the stage were he shook the hands of those he could reach. One woman was so happy to have touched the President that she began to cry. Talking on her cell phone she said, “Baby, I shook his hand, I can’t believe it, I shook his hand.”
Outside, crowds of people protested a variety of things. People from The Cloud Foundation urged the President to end federally funded round ups of wild horses in the western states. Others handed out flyers and held signs in support of Medicare.
Steve Kessler, a self described “radical from the sixties” sold pins to support Bradley Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who leaked classified documents in the Wikileaks scandal. Kessler said he supports freedom of speech, freedom of information, and a variety of news sources. “When the San Francisco Chronicle is considered the best large paper in California, we got problems.”
On Sept. 2, USF held its’ annual Involvement Fair. Music was playing in Harney Plaza as hundreds of students made their way through the various tables. The music blasting throughout campus contained profane words that would be banned in some publications on campus. Before the Involvement Fair, there were a series of incidents in Crossroads Cafe in which student employees were playing their personal iPods. When Crossroads management became aware that profane words were being played, the students were asked not to continue playing music with bad words in the lyrics. According to Bon Appetit Director Holly Winslow, a member of the leadership team told the workers not to play the music, but they continued. Crossroads has since banned the playing of all personal iPods during business hours.
Why were the DJ’s in Harney Plaza allowed to project profanity-laced music louder and to a larger group of people in Harney Plaza when the Crossroads workers were not? Were there any warnings given to DJ’s at the Involvement Fair?
The ambiguity and double-standard in restrictions like these make it hard for students to know when and where their music is appropriate to play and when they should wait until they are in a private place.
Another issue is, who is this music offending? Students were not complaining about the music’s words at the Involvement Fair. Instead, members of student groups were dancing on chairs, tables, and in surrounding areas. People were equally not offended during the incident in Crossroads. We are adults and should be treated as such. If students are not offended by this music, whom is the administration protecting?
The student press has had conflict with the administration when deciding whether or not to publish a story. If the wrong decision is made, there lingers the possibility of getting a reprehensive letter or having a special visit from the highest USF officials for a scolding session.
Chris Begley, the executive producer of USFtv, says he and his staff play it safe when airing content on TV. “Before we air something I think about if Father Privett or Margaret Higgins were in the cafeteria, would they approve?” said Begley. He also said that USFtv has not had a major issue with the administration trying to control their content and the USFtv staff makes sure they do not air unnecessary curse words. The Foghorn is familiar with complaints about content or certain profane words printed in the paper. At times, the Foghorn has received emails from the administration questioning the appropriateness of some of the content printed. An article has never been kept from print, but the potential for a negative administrative response makes campus gatekeepers wary of printing a piece that could offend.
But other campus publications such as The Ignation, which prints original poems and stories by students in an annual issue, sometimes prints profane words and edgy stories. The Ignation is deemed art and the authors and editors have more leeway in the content they print. If this is the case, why is the music played in Crossoroads censored? Does it not fall within the same art exemption?
Students hold peaceful demonstrations in Harney Plaza, various residence halls, and other public spaces on campus. The Foghorn, USFtv, KUSF and all other student-run media outlets on campus serve as forums for student voices and offer information about our school’s community. Students are free to practice whichever religion they choose to, despite USF being a Jesuit institution.
Still, there is a gray area of restrictions on this campus that make students question whether they are exercising their rights or violating school policy.
Preserving Jesuit values is important, but if the administration is not consistent in their censorship rules and when and where they apply, students may restrain themselves before expressing themselves. Student should not have to “play it safe” for fear of punishment. Student content will not be interesting or original. It will be watered down, and will lack the unique personality of all the individual artists that make USF a free and diverse campus.