Social Awareness and Free Speech at UConn

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Hi Sebastian here,

One morning after my Biology class I popped in my headphones and commenced my epic trip from the Torrey Life Sciences building (in the Northwest part of campus) all the way McMahon Residence Hall, or as I like to affectionately call it McManor. Actually I have several nicknames for my residence hall including McGriddle, McCastle, and McMansion.

As I was walked to my residence hall, I passed Fairfield Way where I could see a lot of action. To my left there stood a man who wore a double-sided sign which listed all the groups of people who, according to him, were damned and going to hell. It included people who believe in evolution, homosexuals, feminists, rappers (what?), and even socialists. He was screaming his beliefs without an inkling of shame and I could not help but feel a great aversion to his beliefs as I consider myself very socially liberal.

Despite the fact that I disagree with him one hundred percent and do believe that his opinions if taken seriously can be damaging to society, I do appreciate the fact that UConn abides by the Bill of Rights and respects the fact that this man has the right to his opinions regardless of how unpopular they are.

Surprisingly I didn’t say anything, despite the fact that what he was saying was offensive and angered the little activist in me that is not afraid to come out. However this experience was not all negative, it brought the campus together in more ways than I could imagine.  A large group of UConn students formed around the man and they voiced their disapproval for his distasteful vitriol. I recognized friends from the Rainbow Center and The Women’s Center, which are two of six cultural centers that offer a place of support and educate the campus on many important issues.  UConn students of all shapes, sizes, and colors came to defend the people who were doomed according to the man’s sign. Some people laughed and were more entertained by the man and others insisted no one should pay attention to him.  What touched me is that no one stood by the man to defend his views, and yet the whole event was pretty civil.

My favorite part of this occurrence was that my two friends, Curt and Ben, decided to take a picture kissing in front of the man as a joke but also as a way to symbolically protest his views.

Curt and Ben make a statement that went viral.

The picture went viral online getting hundreds of likes on Facebook, having several memes made out of it, and landing on the front page of the Daily Campus, UConn’s newspaper.

This is the main reason why I love UConn, the fact that its students are so socially aware. I was very involved in high school with clubs of this sort and I was even the founder and president and founder of the Human Rights club at my school. I was afraid that I would not fit in at college, but was I wrong!

Me collecting honks for a counter protest at Fairfield Way outside of our Student Union. Making activism look great! :)

I have attended rallies, protests, and get togethers promoting social justice.

UConn is a place for everyone. One of my favorite aspects of the university are the cultural centers. I have visited and attended events by all cultural the centers, all of them containing very socially aware members.

Social awareness is not limited to our six cultural centers many other organizations, offices, and clubs on campus are very active. Take for example our male hockey team who were part of the ‘You Can Play’ campaign an international initiative to end homophobia in hockey. Coach Bruce Marshall told the team to join only if they truly meant it and were true to their word. UConn is one of eight teams to join as a group.

We’ve also had many events on campus from Take Back the Night and Slutwalk to simply clubs tabling to raise money. Passionate students from all walks of life can find a home at UConn with our College Republicans, College Democrats, Youth for Socialist Action, to Pro-Life UConn.

UConn to me is a very safe, accepting, and diverse campus where all of my intersecting identities (and anyone else’s) can feel at home.

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Categories: I did not know that!, Student Social Life, Things to Do at UConn, UConn


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