Home Campus OPINION: The Emmys embrace free speech. Ohio U doesn’t.

OPINION: The Emmys embrace free speech. Ohio U doesn’t.

8 min read

If Stephen Colbert can make pointed political jokes at the Emmy Awards, Ohio U students should be able to do the same, right? Opinion writer Emma Kennedy argues her case. 

The 2017 Primetime Emmy Awards had strong political overtones, with jokes being made about political events and politicians all night, including a surprise appearance from former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

The jokes made at the Emmys indicated that freedom of speech is valued. The Emmys created an atmosphere where those present could say whatever they felt. This is a concept Ohio University is having trouble recreating through President Duane Nellis’ “Freedom of Expression” interim policy.

Currently, the “Freedom of Expression” policy is inhibiting the freedoms of students to talk about their opinions in an indoor, public setting. At the Emmys, however, both sides of the political spectrum were able to express their opinions to a large, indoor audience.

The Emmys has a much larger audience than the student body at Ohio U. If the Emmys could allow open communication, there should be no reason that Ohio U cannot do the same.

The award show was hosted by Stephen Colbert, the former host of The Colbert Report and current host of The Late Show. Colbert is used to moderating a political atmosphere, as both The Colbert Report and The Late Show have been centered around current events and politics.

Colbert himself made several Donald Trump-related jokes at the event, the most popular being that Trump never won an Emmy for The Apprentice. Colbert said that the Emmys were different because “unlike the presidency, the Emmy goes to the winner of the popular vote.”

Another fan favorite moment was when Alec Baldwin won an Emmy for his impersonation of Trump on Saturday Night Live. In his acceptance speech Baldwin also poked fun at Trump’s failure to win an Emmy when he said, “At long last, Mr. President, here is your Emmy.”

The most talked about moment of the show was the appearance of Spicer, who made jokes about his own political scandals as Press Secretary for Trump. He opened his bit with “This will be the largest audience to witness the Emmys, period,” a pointed reference to his highly-criticized remarks that Trump’s inauguration had the largest audience in U.S. inauguration history.

The ability of the Emmys to be broadcast across the country, and to allow people to make these jokes, demonstrates the amount of freedom we have here in America. The Emmys created a platform for celebrities and even Spicer to make comments regarding their opinions.

This is an area that Ohio U is currently failing in. A Hollywood award show was able to create a place more open to freedom of expression than Ohio U. With Nellis inhibiting the ability to give speeches, demonstrations, sit-ins and protests in Ohio U buildings, Bobcats have lost a large part of their freedom of expression.

A student now has more opportunity to voice their rights on broadcast television than in their own college buildings. Nellis’ move was made in an attempt to avoid problems like last year’s sit-in at Baker University Center. But restricting the rights of students to express themselves is too extreme.

Yes, students still may say whatever they like to each other. But this is currently not allowed on a mass scale in a building. That would be considered a demonstration.

CBS allowed the stars at the Emmys to say whatever they wanted to 11.38 million people, but here at Ohio U we can no longer hold rallies in university buildings. Students are taught that freedom of speech and expression are their most powerful tools, yet Ohio U is taking some of those freedoms away on campus.

College campuses have a history of notable protests, including the sit-in at Berkeley during the civil rights movement and a sit-in at Harvard against the Vietnam War. Kent State is widely known for its protest during the civil rights movement, while Ohio U is taking away a historically important freedom.

Ohio U is giving students fewer rights than T.V. stars have on public television. A college campus should be an area where students are free to speak their mind. Students at Ohio U should be allowed the same level of freedom of expression as celebrities on an awards show — not giving students these basic rights is a risky move for campus officials.

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