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Free Speech

Minnesota Wants to Tell Voters How to Dress at the Polls

The outcome of this legal case could have far-reaching free speech implications.

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Can a t-shirt destroy democracy?

On February 28, the U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing arguments on the case of Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, regarding Minnesota Statute Section 211B.11(1). But, essentially, they’ll be talking about t-shirts.

The lawsuit revolves around dress codes in polling places.

The founding fathers never had an idea t-shirts would one day become a thing. (Image: Flickr)

Currently Minnesota is one of ten states that restricts the type of apparel voters can wear to the polls on Election Day. The statute in question prohibits political paraphernalia in polling places — we’re talking hats, t-shirts, buttons — relating to the election or political issues in general.

This is where the law can stir up controversy because, while it’s clear that voters can’t wear campaign buttons at a polling place, what about a t-shirt supporting gun rights, unionization, or other organizations, such as the American Legion, the N.A.A.C.P., or the N.R.A.?

Enter the Minnesota Voters Alliance.

The case can be traced back to an incident when the founder of the nonprofit, Andre Cilek, entered a polling place wearing Tea Party paraphernalia, including a button that said “Please I.D. Me.” Although the law could not prohibit him from voting, Cliek was asked to cover his button and risked prosecution for disobeying the poll workers.

Although this may seem like a hot button issue now — no pun intended — the law has actually been in effect since 1912.

Opposers of the law think that it directly violates the first amendment’s right to freedom of speech, while supporters of the law pointed to the Supreme Court’s decision in Burson v. Freeman to uphold a buffer zone around polling places for political signs and posters.

However, no matter which side of the argument you’re on, many voters agree that the current law is too broad, leaving it up to last-minute interpretation by poll workers on election to decide what is too political for the polling place.

While the law in Minnesota was upheld in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals last year, there’s a lot of speculation on what the Supreme Court will be deciding this month, as the decision could have a major impact on the polls for years to come.

So, stay tuned, and don’t pick out that Election Day outfit just yet.

via GIPHY

Grace Cooper is a senior Nonfiction Writing and Psychology student at the University of Pittsburgh. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @gracie_coo.

Academics

UC San Diego Refuses to Cancel Course on Woody Allen Films

University of California, San Diego refused to cancel a course on Woody Allen films despite a petition with over 20,000 signatures.

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The University of California, San Diego is refusing to cancel a course on “The Films of Woody Allen” despite a petition with more than 20,000 signatures.

The UC San Diego Academic Senate announced that they “conclude that canceling or removing this or any other course for the reason that it contains the study of controversial material, or even material widely regarded as morally problematic, would undermine both the value of free inquiry and the associated rights of faculty to engage in such inquiry by choosing their course content” in a press release.

The Senate also defined the subject of the press release as “Academic Freedom at UCSD”.

The petition, which currently has 21,895, was created by theater student Savanah Lyon, who said she “emailed all of the people in charge in an attempt to appeal to their sense of reason, humanity, and morality to stop this class and take it off the books so that no one can teach this class again.” Lyon’s emails have been met with dismissal, unprofessionalism, and dehumanizing rhetoric, according to the petition.

“They believe they have a right to teach this class due to academic freedom. They do not care about the statement it makes to survivors everywhere. They do not care that Woody Allen is on his way out of Hollywood,” Lyon also said in the petition.

“They do not care that the class is less than 1/3 full, making it an unpopular class that has no reason to be taught. They do not care that there are thousands of other directors who could teach the same film basics that they use Woody Allen to teach, directors who haven’t raped seven-year-old girls.”

Dylan Farrow, Woody Allen’s adoptive daughter with Mia Farrow, had accused him of molesting her when she was a seven year old. Allen is currently married to Mia Farrrow’s other adoptive daughter Soon-Yi Previn. He claims the affair with Previn started when she was 21 years old.

In  a Facebook post Lyon said she tried as hard as she could but the odds were stacked up against her from the beginning.

I tried, I tried as hard as I could, and the people around me and across the globe tried as well. The odds were stacked…

Posted by Savanah Lyon on Tuesday, February 20, 2018

“It’s hard to believe what would’ve been enough to get them to remove it from the books. Over 3,700 emails weren’t enough. Over 14,500 signatures weren’t enough. Various news clips and articles weren’t enough. The students weren’t enough, but the way the system works, I have a hard time believing we ever will,” she said.

“I don’t know if free speech and academic freedom will ever stop protecting oppressors. But, we can keep trying. Trying is radical and it will make them jump back every time. You get enough people pushing for change, it’ll start to happen. Don’t be discouraged by this.”

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Free Speech

University of Vermont Students and Faculty Rally Against Racial Injustices

The rallies come as a response to growing racial tensions on the University of Vermont campus.

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Students and faculty at the University of Vermont call for change this week with protests against the university’s lack of support for students and people of color.

John Meija, Assistant Director of Student Relations at UVM, is on a self-proclaimed hunger strike until the university meets his list of demands. His demands extend from the university to the city of Burlington, and include the university’s public endorsement of the Black Lives Matter movement and complete adoption of the list of student demands from the #nonamesforjustice group on campus.

The hunger strike comes as a response to increasingly anti-black racial acts happening on campus and in the city.

“There are escalating acts of anti-black racism on this campus and in this city, and louder, more visible, and unabashed white supremacy,” Meija said. “There was no proportional reaction from either entity and so that’s why I thought this needed to happen and why I am putting my life on the line to move this conversation forward.”

Students and student social justice group, The NoNames for Justice, held rallies this week to bring continued awareness to the increasing racial tension at UVM. NoNames for Justice calls for the resignation of UVM president, Thomas Sullivan and casts criticism on Provost David Rosowsky and Vice Provost Annie Stevens due to their insensitivity towards students of color on campus.

“I want a response. I want action. I want accountability I just want recognition we exist, we are here, and we are angry. So don’t take that away from us — you can’t take that away from us,” Jennifer Gil, a UVM senior, said.

University officials say, in an official statement, they are to openly communicate and remain transparent with the UVM community during these times.

“Working together and communicating with each other on these issues of national importance, in an atmosphere of mutual respect and civility, will allow us to continue making progress as one University. We welcome all who want to join together to be a part of what needs to be a campus, community, and national conversation,” the statement said.

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Free Speech

Five Arrested at University of Washington Patriot Prayer Rally

UW’s College Republicans had filed a lawsuit against the school last week.

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Five people were taken into custody yesterday as clashes erupted at the University of Washington during a Patriot Prayer rally staged by the school’s College Republicans, who had sued the school over the right to hold the rally.

University of Washington and Seattle Police were on hand to separate those attending the rally and two groups of counter-protesters who showed up to voice opposition to Patriot Prayer and its figurehead, Joey Gibson.

According to a report from KUOW,

Before the event started Saturday, College Republicans acted as gate-keepers, advising officers who was allowed to enter the space cordoned off for the rally that became the stage for speakers.

They were joined by several members of the Proud Boys, a group that has been referred to as alt-right, as well as Patriot Prayer supporters and conservative students. Some of those attending the rally wore red caps with President Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” on them. Others wore purple caps with a play on that slogan, “Make UW Great Again.”

Gibson hailed the UW College Republicans for having “the courage to be Republican, the courage to be conservative” at what he called “Marxist universities,” according to reports.

Scuffles broke out on the protesters side of the barrier, which led the police to intervene, taking two people into custody. Three others were arrested later for not protesting peacefully. There were scattered reports of pepper spray being used, but no law enforcement officials confirmed those rumors.

On Friday, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining that prevented the University of Washington from enforcing a $17,000 fee against the College Republicans. The group’s lawsuit claimed the fee amounted to a repression of free speech.

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