A woman approaches a student at the LAC on her way to class. Woman: Hi, what do you know about conflict diamonds? Student: Sorry, I’m on my way to class. Woman: Can I walk and talk with you on your way to class?
It’s as if they have an answer for any situation they encounter. She proceeds to fill student in on children who have lost limbs due to accidents while mining for diamonds in Africa in conclusion asking the student what amount she felt comfortable with donating to her today. This is an example of what seems like a weekly encounter between students and a solicitor on campus.
We believe in free speech, not harassment. While we embrace the idea of a college campus being an open and active community where one can speak her or his mind, we wonder where the line gets crossed when it comes to sensitive topics such as religion, politics and donations on campus and if a college is the proper place for solicitors to conduct their meetings.
Collectively, we’ve encountered awkward run-ins with various religious groups, petitioners, fund solicitors, military recruiters, anti-abortion groups and flier distributors.
The problem doesn’t necessarily involve the solicitors themselves, but the way they convey their message. Free speech does not entitle brash behavior toward people on campus and may create a barrier for future communication between the students and people who visit our campuses asking us to partake in their cause. We do not appreciate being followed, or forced to hear speeches we decline to hear.
They aren’t here to express themselves, but just to use the public campus in hopes to fill those last few spots on their petition ballot. They don’t seem to have time to thoroughly explain the significance to those who they ask for signatures. They are here to get the attention they seek and then they are off to the next campus.
Because everyone is entitled to free speech, solicitors are not breaking the law by expressing themselves on campus in designated areas.
The LAC college map displays a “free speech area” in front of the J Building, but a quick search in the current college handbook, no description was found regarding the free speech area.
The outside influencers are taking opportunities away from students at the college and in return making students unapproachable or uninterested in the topic at hand.
It would be nice to have on-campus student involvement regarding the issues instead of solicitors because then it would create more of a communicative atmosphere. Clubs relating to the issues can gain involvement with the school and students may feel obligated to answer questionnaires or stop and talk.
It’s not that we don’t care about your messages, but sometimes we really do have a class that we need to attend. As journalists, we practice a code of ethics in our endeavours and ask the same of people who use our campuses as their platform.