The Proposed Protest Policy and the Infantilization of Students

By SOPHIE CLARK

I was shocked by the college’s proposed new protest and demonstration policy released in November because I fundamentally disagree with the idea of protest regulations and, more importantly, because these particular policies are frankly insulting to the student body.

In my opinion, protest policies are inherently unjust. Liberal arts schools exist to teach students how to think and express themselves. Dictating how to engage in debate undermines the entire point of our education. Furthermore, protest policies raise the question, “If protest rules are put in place to protect freedom of speech, does protesting not count as free speech?”

Regardless of whether you believe colleges should have protest policies or not, this particular policy is damaging for two reasons.

First, section 10 states, “Non-disruptive expressive activity is permitted at Middlebury, subject to the Demonstration Regulations regarding time, place and manner of the activity, and the Policy on Scheduling Space for Middlebury Events.” Forcing students to schedule a place in which to protest (which is also present in sections 6 and 8 of our current protest policy) is an endorsement of the physical marginalization of already marginalized students on campus. Protests occur when people feel that their voices are not being heard. Physically moving less-heard voices to places where they will not disturb invited speakers creates an extra barrier to freedom of expression on a campus where those voices are already underrepresented.

Second, this policy is insulting to the students of Middlebury College. It implies that we have learned nothing from events two years ago, and that the majority of the current student body (who were not even present for Charles Murray’s visit) should bear the consequences of the actions of a few.

Most strikingly, this policy is a gross infantilization of the student body. Setting up such definitive rules and regulations for protests is assuming that we cannot make our own critical decisions, and instead must be dictated to like children. We chose to come to Middlebury College to grow into thoughtful members of society, and top-down decrees are offensive to students who are creative, critical and free-thinking.

If the college wants to retain its reputation as a true liberal arts school, a place where students can learn how to critique their world and freely express themselves non-violently, I urge administrators to rethink these new proposed protest policies.

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