In a world of both political and ideological diversity, a world where President Trump recently released an executive order that mandated that U.S. colleges and universities uphold free speech or risk being stripped of federal research money, Salt Lake Community College works to be all-inclusive to all opinions across the spectrum.
As stated by the SLCC Student Affairs’ Policies and Procedures Chapter 3, Policy 2.03 on Campus Speech: “Salt Lake Community College values academic freedoms and supports and encourages the exchange of ideas within the College community, including ideas that may be unpopular or controversial.”
Over the past few years, there has been a noticeable increase in both verbal and silent protest that occur on college campuses.
In October of 2017, the Genocide Awareness Project partnered with Project Truth to set up a graphic anti-abortion display at Taylorsville Redwood Campus.
In February of 2019, fliers associated with Patriot Front, a white supremacist group that promotes anti-immigration ideals, could be found on Taylorsville Redwood and South City campuses.
Utah state law states that all outdoor space on any public college or university in Utah is treated as a traditional public forum. This means that anyone can come and spontaneously practice their First Amendment right on campus.
SLCC is not immune to the expression of what can be seen as controversial opinions.
“[The protests] did raise concerns about safety,” says Ken Stonebrook, Dean of Students and Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs. “We as an institution want people to be able to share their concerns while also understanding that our actions are restricted by the legal parameters of the First Amendment.”
One place that SLCC students can share their concerns in a safe environment is the Center of Health and Counseling.
“[A safe space] is a place where someone can go and not be judged or criticized for a particular issue,” says Scott Kadera, the counseling services manager. “A common example is a safe space for LGBTQ+ members.”
SLCC also has a variety of reporting forms that students can utilize, with the most recent being the Student Complaint form.
“[The Student Complaint form] allows students to file a concern or complaint that does not necessarily fit into a specific classification,” Stonebrook says.
However, SLCC’s main objective is to toe the line between respecting the student’s First Amendment right while also delivering a proper college education.
“Students have very strong opinions about topics such as women’s rights, racism, religion in schools, and the free exercise of religious practices,” says Suzanne Jacobs, associate professor of religious studies. “Sometimes it is difficult to convince the students that there is more than one way of looking at a topic.”
A controversial technique that opponents say that prohibit freedom of speech is that of the trigger warning.
For example, the University of Chicago in 2016 sent out their letter of welcome to the incoming class of 2020. The letter stated that the University of Chicago does not condone the presence of trigger warnings or safe spaces on campus.
“[A trigger warning] is a heads up when you are presenting material that may have a negative impact on someone else,” Kadera says. “It is about giving the other person the option of whether or not they are ready to discuss possibly traumatic subject matter.”
Jacobs believes that there is a way to balance healthy class discussion with respecting the student’s freedom of speech.
“I think the burden falls mostly on the professor or instructor to construct content and questions appropriately in order to include everyone and pay close attention to the tones and dynamics of the classroom,” she says.
SLCC has provided online reporting forms for Code of Students Rights and Responsibilities violations and student concerns. To learn more, visit the Dean of Students Services Office inside the Student Center at Taylorsville Redwood Campus.