Editorial: Let Schill speak
The following is the opinion of the Emerald’s editorial board and not Emerald Media Group as a whole.
The small student protest that cancelled University of Oregon President Michael Schill’s speech on Friday was disrespectful, ineffective, and reflects poorly on the whole student body.
Approximately 45 students, calling themselves the “UO Student Collective,” swarmed the stage right before Schill was scheduled to give his State of the University speech Friday morning, and after several minutes of chanting, an administrator announced that the speech was cancelled. The following day, the students posted a list of demands on Facebook.
Friday’s protest painted the UO student body as unwilling to listen to the viewpoints of others. College students around the country have been criticized recently for shutting down the speeches of controversial right-wing figures such as Milo Yiannopoulos and Ben Shapiro.
What happened Friday was worse. Schill wasn’t there to spew hate-filled rhetoric – he was a university president doing his job.
The organizers, whose gripes include Schill’s “acceptance of fascism and neo-Nazis,” “insurmountable increases to student tuition,” and “ignorantly happy-go-lucky attitude” wrote in their Facebook group for the event that “radical change requires radical action.”
We got the radical action. Still waiting on the radical change.
The organizers failed to suppress anything, as UO released a pre-recorded version of the speech minutes after its cancellation. Instead, the event made headlines for its spectacle and painted the student body as rude, unfocused and angry about … just about everything.
Students who are unhappy with school administration should absolutely protest and make their concerns heard. The repeated tuition increases are a legitimate gripe, and Schill comes across as tone deaf when he tells students to ask their parents for money or take on more debt. But shouting him off the stage isn’t the way to address those concerns.
The Black Student Task Force has shown that respectful protest can effect change on this campus. Not all of their demands have been met, but they got things done by showing a willingness to work with administration rather than drown it out.
For change to happen, there must be dialogue with those in charge of making the changes. Suppressing the speech of others is not how to move forward.