Letter to the editor: UK is satisfying responsibility to student First Amendment rights

The president of UK Young Americans for Liberty, senior Austin Woods, lambasted the University of Kentucky for infringements upon civil liberties and UK’s failure to “preserve its students’ First Amendment rights.” Woods’ essay was featured in the Kernel’s “letter to the editor” section on March 28.

Woods’ first attack was that “UK has not lived up to its responsibility to preserve its students’ First Amendment rights.” However, the First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” That single passage guarantees only that Congress shall never impose upon these practices.

The First Amendment isn’t a privilege, it’s an immunity. The University of Kentucky has no responsibility to protect students from Congress, but it is responsible for protecting students from each other.

Which leads to Woods’ second accusation, that “codes are rife with vague  clauses, banning ‘environment(s) that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile or offensive.’ ”  This excerpt is derived from the University’s policy on discrimination and harassment, Section II, which defines harassment as a form of discrimination when “the conduct is sufficiently severe, pervasive or persistent to interfere with an individual’s work, academic or program participation, or creates an environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or offensive.”  Thus, the language of university code that earned a “yellow” rating is merely designed to provide students with a sensitive and safe learning environment.

The university’s clauses are only vague when abridged and represented in false context.

“It’s time for UK to atone for its sins against civil liberties,” Woods said in his essay. Yet upon close examination, the policies instituted by the university appear to do nothing more than protect students from racial, ethnic, political, sexual, physical and/or etc. discrimination.

Furthermore, is there evidence that any administration ever enforcing these policies sinfully encroached upon civil liberties?

There is a reason that opinion pieces don’t make the front page; they are immune of journalistic integrity. Rhetoric reigns supreme over objectivity, and the moral compass is tossed aside for misinterpretation and contextually spliced quotes.

However, I cast no shame on Austin Woods, or even the Kernel for printing his essay, because the responsibility of preserving First Amendment rights rests on society.

Educate yourself. Ignorance is the difference between people that own the establishment and an establishment that owns the people.