A Legacy of Freedom: Thirty Years

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Opinions expressed within are the property of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of any other member or the Tiger Town Observer itself.

We needed a voice. Bill Clinton was elected president the year we began (1992) and said publicly: “Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.” He was a popular president with the faculty and administration here, and his ethic, evident years before the Monica Lewinsky scandal, showed that women at Clemson needed a voice.

In 1993 ten art students at the University of Maryland plastered the campus with flyers of male students walking to class under this heading: “NOTICE: THESE MEN ARE RAPISTS!” The UM administration excused the actions by saying it was an exercise in academic freedom. The same attitude echoed in the attitudes of teachers and the administration here. Campus males needed a voice.

We had no voice. The university leadership designated certain places as “free speech” zones on campus, while they controlled presentations at other locations. A Washington-based Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) lawyer spoke to the press, saying that the whole state-owned campus was a free speech zone, not just the areas the administration selected. The meeting rules disappeared.

The Tiger Town Observer became a voice. It was a publication independent of university control, and it could publicize backdoor support and money for Woke programs. Then, it could, and did, publish the university’s empty explanations and reasons for favoritism.

In this newspaper, students could rejoice about Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter without apology. It was okay in an article to talk about praying to God, a discussion forbidden elsewhere on campus. The Observer could schedule and support nationally known speakers, and help get them here to make an appearance. That was opposite the required lectures the liberal arts and humanities departments required for academic reasons.

How many students have complained that if they differed with a teacher’s point of view, or a required assignment, they were punished? “I failed,” and “She hated it,” and “They said they wanted my opinion, but punished me when I gave the wrong one.”

The Tiger Town Observer became a way to publicize the growing admonitions and ideologically-driven requirements at Clemson. It regularly printed the salaries of Woke faculty leaders and administrators. The Observer once ran an article on the “Five Worst Classes at Campus,” and the competition to get on the list was tight. The faculty mocked the publication in public, but they read it in their offices with the door closed.

Unlike Princeton, the University of Chicago, and Purdue, Clemson has no free speech code. Nothing ever passed by the Board of Trustees guarantees open discussion and debate on campus. The faculty and students here were/are imprisoned by the administration to their point of view, without a way of questioning them or having their opinions discussed in disagreement.

Voltaire, the French writer before the revolution of 1789, said that the nation had laws against killing and that murderers were prosecuted “unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.” The provost and deans at Clemson gathered their sanctimonious academic robes about them this past spring, and used their trumpets to declare they were “saddened that a celebration of diversity was diminished” by those who opposed a campus Pride March. All students should be able to speak on campus, not just the few favored by the leadership.

Opposite the sentiments of an administration that cannot be challenged by students or faculty, the Palace of Versailles leaders need to know that the population is tired of eating higher tuition cake and endless rules, regulations, guidelines and requirements from the management. Without a free speech code, Clemson can only wait, but it is worth remembering that Louis 16th and Marie Antoinette lost their heads.

For thirty years the Tiger Town Observer has been a light of academic freedom: students have a voice. The legacy of free expression and dissent is important on a college campus, and our collective liberty depends on the freedom of a press that cannot be limited without it being lost. *

J. David Woodard
Faculty Advisor for The Tiger Town Observer (1992-2019)
Thurmond Professor of Political Science (Emeritus)
Clemson University

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