Education Opinion OPINION: Students shouldn’t be punished for dissent By Spencer Costello Posted on March 29, 2018 4 min read 0 1 764 Students protest the university's interim Freedom of Expression policy in October 2017. Photo by Connor Perrett Peace, Protest, Penalty: Opinion writer Spencer Costello believes students should be encouraged to embrace the meaning of peaceful protest. America’s youth is finally finding their voice by using their media savvy to create a platform to spread their message. Teenagers want change and they are not going away until they get it. Students have thrown themselves into the spotlight of media and news coverage, calling on lawmakers for policy reform. However, this isn’t good news for everyone. Earlier this month, students around the nation held a 17-minute walkout to pay homage to the 17 students and faculty killed in the Parkland, FL shooting and to grab the attention of the U.S. Congress. High schools have taken disciplinary actions against some students who decide to partake in these peaceful protests. Suspension, detentions and other punishments have, unfortunately, been dished out. Among other institutions of higher learning, the University of Connecticut and the University of Massachusetts thankfully issued statements that applicants who have received disciplinary action for participating in protests will not see this affect their admissions chance. Last year, there was an incident where dozens of peaceful Ohio University student protesters were arrested for “obstructing the free flow of movement” in Baker University Center. In response, the administration implemented its very ambiguous freedom of speech policy that reflects the issue of clarity our nation has when it comes to students peacefully protesting while disrupting educational affairs. Students walked out on Vice President Mike Pence at the University of Notre Dame. Disrespecting a member of the national administration can be damaging to the reputation of a university. Students walked out and disrespected a speaker that the university spent a significant amount of time and money on. This is not a healthy way to protest for both students and the university. Disciplinary measures, in this case, should be taken in order to maintain the integrity of universities. It is important to exercise the right to peacefully protest. It one of the things that makes our nation so great. We all have the constitutional right to speak up for what we believe in. Abusing this power in order to disrupt and harm schools should be met with consequences. Students might think that disrupting school operations and gatherings is the best way to grab the eye of school officials, media outlets and lawmakers, but the reality is that they are damaging the educational foundation that allows one to hold a platform. Students must be able to distinguish which protests are peaceful and which are disruptive. Then they can begin to initiate real change.