Are There Constitutional Rights at the University of Florida?
By Chris Fetterman
This past week, a grave injustice occurred at the University of Florida. For those of you who have not seen the videos on CNN or youtube.com, I will briefly recap the events that took place. After asking a series of questions during a question and answer session with Senator John Kerry, University of Florida Student Andrew Meyer was hauled away from the microphone by University Police, restrained in the back of the auditorium, and tasered into submission.
The lack of anger at this event is appalling. What is more appalling is that this is a grievous trampling of free thought and expression at what is supposed to be a university of higher learning. Now in defense of the police, as the tall skinny Mayer was being picked up off the ground by a police officer twice his size, screaming “What did I do, why are you arresting me,” he was holding what seems to have become a very threatening weapon in our society. This weapon, which he was basing his questions to Senator Kerry on, happened to be a book.
As Andrew Mayer was physically dragged to the back of the auditorium, continuously asking what he did and why he was being arrested, Senator Kerry remained calm, encouraged everyone else to remain calm, and at one point asked the police to let Mayer back to the microphone so he could answer his questions. Then, as every video of the event shows, while Mayer was being physically restrained by at least 5, possibly 6 police officers, the taser being held to his chest was fired.
Now regardless of your political leanings, be you conservative or liberal, one cannot argue that this is quite possibly the most alarming example of silencing of opinion we have seen in decades. While Mayer’s line of questioning may not have been appropriate for the situation, there was absolutely no reason to drag him away from a microphone and taser him while he was being held down by numerous police officers. This act would not be surprising were it coming out of communist China or North Korea. However coming out of the United States of America, supposedly the land of free expression, one cannot help but be alarmed at the silencing of opinion displayed by the University of Florida Police Department.
John Stuart Mill, the 19th century British philosopher, made possibly the best argument against silencing of opinion. If the opinion is right, we lose a chance to exchange error for truth and better understand the truth. If the opinion being silenced is wrong, we lose a chance to remove the erroneous opinion from public discourse and strengthen the truth by refuting the error. While silencing of opinion in the United States may have become the status quo in the past several years, the alarming trend needs to be stopped, before we find ourselves in an Orwellian society with no means to reverse the trend.