Freedom of Expression discussion reveals some students’ disappointment in UO administration

Journalism professors Todd Milburn and Lisa Heyamoto listen to a student’s thoughts on freedom of expression at the March 9 event. The married couple was recruited to facilitate these discussions because of their past work leading conversations about trust in media. (Courtesy of Emma Oravecz)

Gabriel Alvarez brought his pocket-sized constitution to a freedom of expression discussion hosted by the University of Oregon so that he could quote the first amendment if needed.

“I came in with the impression that I might be silenced,” Alvarez said. “I see student speech silenced all around campus.”

In the sixth part of a series of freedom-of-expression-related events initiated by the president’s office, journalism professors Todd Milbourn and Lisa Heyamoto led about 15 students through a conversation about what “speaking up” looks like in individual lives at the Many Nations Longhouse on March 9, but by the end, students’ feelings of being disregarded by university administration took center stage.

Journalism student Chayne Thomas said he was disappointed that administrators weren’t there to listen, although journalism dean Juan-Carlos Molleda was present for the first half of the discussion.

“It’s telling that at an event focused on student voices, the president and administration aren’t here,” he said, adding that it may show that higher administration regards corporate investment over students.

Thomas also wrote a letter to the Emerald about President Michael Schill’s response to student protesters who interrupted a speech he planned to give on Oct. 6.

UO spokesman Tobin Klinger said President Michael Schill was the one who suggested that a series of events centered around freedom of expression take place and that that idea came before his speech was interrupted.

Milbourn said that although many administrators weren’t present, a list of talking points will be relayed to the president’s office. Students also wrote down some of their takeaways from the discussion and had their photos taken with those testimonials. Those images will be sent with the list of talking points.

Zack Demars, a political science turned pre-journalism student, said an event around freedom of expression is much needed in light of the recent tuition increase for next year. He said that even though students voiced their concern in Tuition and Fees Advisory Board meetings, the proposed increase seemed to never change and student voices seemed to go unacknowledged.

“It shows that student input really doesn’t have effect,” he said.

Demars suggested that there be more access to student and administrator interaction. Ideas floated around the room about students taking on the roles of administrators for a term or being provided much more information during the decision process of major changes such as tuition increases.

Demars wasn’t certain about what would come from an event involving less than .1 percent of the student population but hoped at least something would come from it.

The next freedom of expression events will be about activism in sports on May 8 in various locations around the university.