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CENSORSHIP CAUSES BLINDNESS

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The one line I remember from high school history is “clear and present danger.” Established in the Supreme Court case Schenck v. United States, this phrase outlines that speech creating a “clear and present danger” can be punished. So what speech constitutes a “clear and present danger” that someone’s First Amendment rights can be abridged?

This past April, Lindsey Riback, the news editor at the Albany Student Press, wrote an informative article detailing the resources available to report sexual assault in her article, “Sexual Assault Reports up 200 Percent at UAlbany.” Although this headline may seem shocking, the content explained that the increase in resources on campus to report sexual assault contributed to the sharp increase in reports. This headline came into question as the Accepted Student Open House rolled around. A University at Albany tour guide instructed other guides to remove any newspapers from the Lecture Center that displayed this headline so that prospective students and their families wouldn’t see it.

On Saturday, April 16, I attended this open house. At the time, I was a high school senior and had decided to major in English. I wanted to double major, but I was wrestling with which second major to pick. History? Linguistics? Journalism? These possible majors circulated in my mind; I couldn’t pick a definitive path. That is, until I heard Professor Rosemary Armao speak for the Journalism Department. The idea that I could talk to others and learn mounds of information—all through researching and reporting—appealed to me. Even more, the enthusiasm with which Professor Armao presented drew me to the right path: journalism.

Coming out of the lecture hall, I was on the lookout for Professor Armao and then the school newspaper. I found Professor Armao and learned the answers to some questions I had. What I couldn’t find was the school newspaper.

The fact that the newspapers were removed was dangerous; it signified that the ASP’s First Amendment rights were also removed. Not only this, but confiscating the newspapers endangered opportunities for prospective students. Being a prospective student, I wanted the opportunity to read the school newspaper and learn from experienced college writers. The information in the article would have allowed other prospective students to learn of resources on campus they could use if they decided to attend UAlbany. In fact, as Riback reports in the original article, “UAlbany is the only school in the SUNY system with its own sexual violence resource center.”

If anything, this information would have drawn prospective students to UAlbany because of the unique resource center. The tour guide should have realized this if he or she had read the whole article. This shows the danger of jumping to conclusions.

Corynn Dziezynski, another incoming freshman who attended the open house, said, “I would have looked into [the article].”

Then, during Freshman Summer Orientation, I learned a startling statistic: 96% of campus thefts are unattended/unsecured property. All students were just recently reminded of this fact in the August 29 University Police Department email. Did this information scare me away from UAlbany? Absolutely not. Sure, I was a little jarred by how easily unattended possessions can be stolen, but this encouraged me to take preventative measures. I brought a lock box for valuables and I make sure to watch my valuables whenever I’m out and about. Therefore, this information on theft has been helpful to me, not dangerous to me.

Also recalling this information on theft from summer orientation, Luke Lebel said, “You have to be careful.” When going out on campus, Luke stated, “I wouldn’t leave my laptop anywhere I’m not with it.”

Returning to the issue at hand, the truth the ASP put forward in its article is not dangerous; jumping to conclusions and endangering rights and opportunities is.

As a young child, I learned to never judge a book by its cover. Doing so can cause a person to miss out on information and opportunities inside that book, which shows the danger of jumping to conclusions. Just as I would never judge a book by its cover, I would never judge a university by its newspaper’s headlines.

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Elise Coombs, a Syracuse native, is the editor-in-chief of the Albany Student Press. She is the co-Vice President of the UAlbany Mock Trial team, a member of Presidential Honors Society, and a peer mentor for the pre-law section of Writing and Critical Inquiry. After her time at UAlbany, she plans to go to law school and become a First Amendment lawyer.

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