I have already seen some of the internal emails in connection with this unfortunate event. The most notable comes from Ms. Smith and contains the following admission: “During the week of April 16th, the Hilltoppers for Life’s pro-life display remained un-interrupted. The student body tolerated this intrusion without major incident. The voice of the pro-life community was heard. On the last day of this event, I attempted to add to the visual dialogue with my own voice and was met with strong resistance.”
The very idea that one of your university students deems others’ speech as an “intrusion” and the desecration of other people’s property as an attempt “to add to the visual dialogue” is simply dumbfounding. This makes perfectly clear the need for immediate action in order to correct her fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between vandalism and free speech.
Accordingly, I suggest that Dr. Arnold’s art students be sent on a series of assignments – for full academic credit – that will help them better appreciate the difference between protected speech and unprotected violations of the Kentucky criminal code. The following assignments should teach them that their actions are not always protected – even when they are in possession of 3700 condoms:
*Go find Elaina Smith’s Prius in the WKU parking lot. Adorn it with 3700 “Abortion is Murder” bumper stickers. Then ask whether she thinks the stickers “add to the visual dialogue” on the abortion debate.
*Go find Dr. Arnold’s office on the campus of WKU. Adorn her door with 3700 pictures of aborted babies. Then ask whether she thinks the pictures “add to the visual dialogue” on the abortion debate.
*Photo-shop a picture of Jessie Jackson holding a condom saying “Don’t be like me. Suit up and avoid an unexpected love child.” Tape the picture on the door of the African American Center. See whether this visual creates a better dialogue.
*Next, photo shop a picture of the prophet Mohammad with a condom over his head. Tape the picture on the door of the Muslim Student Association office. See whether you can get the NEA to defer your costs.
*Next, go to the campus Gay and Lesbian Center. Burn a rainbow flag just like the hippies who burn the American flag. And make sure it’s their rainbow flag. Remember to tell them you are just trying to expand the visual dialogue – even after the room is filled with smoke!
I can imagine no better way to promote equality and learn about the First Amendment all at once. Just have your students insult everyone while trespassing on their personal property. If people get angry, that’s their problem. Learning is not always pretty and polite. And critical engagement can sometimes get messy.