Free speech advocate lecture draws student protest
By Emma Agte
Professor Jonathan Zimmerman’s lecture titled, “Censorship and Free Speech in the Age of Trump” drew students of all kinds, including some who wished to protest in a demonstration of their own freedom of speech.
After a brief introduction by Western history professor Johann N. Neem, a group of seven Western students stepped to the front of the lecture hall in the Communications building holding signs that read, “Advocating for the right to racist, sexist and transphobic speech is violent” and “Your safe space is violent.” Neem quickly intervened telling the students they were being inappropriate and they should not be speaking at that time.
Emmaline Bigongiari, one of two students who read a statement in front of the crowd responded to Neem, said, “We are students here, and we have the right to speak,” and continued on with their message that allowing Zimmerman to speak was allowing a violent space on Western’s campus.
The protesters presented information that accused Zimmerman of defending the rights of transphobic, racist and sexist people.
Emmaline Bigongiari (speaking), Lee Adler (second speaker), Ignacio Perez, Lizzy Thompson and other Western students protest professor Jonathan Zimmerman’s lecture titled: “Censorship and Free Speech in the Age of Trump.”
The lecture hall had mixed, loud opinions as the protesting students presented their information. However, they were allowed to stand and read the entirety of their introduction before sitting down to listen to the rest of the lecture.
After about 20 minutes, Zimmerman stepped up to present on freedom of speech on college campuses.
“Friends, trauma is a medical term. You can’t just apply it to anything that offends you or anything that hurts you,” Zimmerman said.
Freshman Jake Bolt and junior Monica Chavez attended the event with Western’s philosophy club, who were planning on meeting afterward to talk about the lecture and their own thoughts.
“I came [to college] to learn as much as possible and if that includes ideas that I don’t believe in, then so be it,” Bolt said.
Some self-identifying conservative students were happy to see the dialogue being opened.
“People, especially at universities, are shooting themselves in the foot, because… college campuses in general are all about diversity until someone disagrees with them politically,” sophomore Rich Graham said.
Graham felt that others could benefit from what Zimmerman had to say about being open to discussion and not vilifying those who are different from you.