A Statement from the Chancellor
Much attention has been given to Wednesday’s Free Speech Alley activities when a student announced his intention to burn the American flag on the LSU campus and a group of concerned students led by Cody Wells responded by organizing a patriotic counter-protest demonstration. What ensued was a decision by the student to only read a statement, but by that time a passionate response had developed and turned into a large and in part unruly gathering of individuals who objected to the original intent to burn the flag.
Let me make these points clear: I do not condone the burning of the flag but I defend the right for someone to express their freedom of speech by doing so. I applaud the many who responded with great passion to speak up for what their flag represents, and that was the purpose of the inspiring patriotic counter-protest that was organized by Mr. Wells. But I do not condone the behavior of that portion of the crowd who, prior to Mr. Wells’ counter-protest, resorted to verbal threats and physical actions against the student while and after he tried to read his statement.
With Freedom of Speech comes personal responsibility. In expressing our opinions we must recognize the impact of our actions and also act responsibly in response to differing opinions.
There is a reason Free Speech Alley has endured for more than a half century at LSU. It is a place for students to openly express their opinions no matter which side of a debate they support. It has been witness to debates about Vietnam, Watergate, 9-11, confederate flags, political differences, religious freedoms and campus controversies. At LSU we stand for respectful free speech dialogue and civil discourse that does not involve outrageous conduct.
Chancellor Michael Martin