Whether students are protesting, preachers are giving sermons or critical conversations are taking place, the Fighting Stallions statue on the Quad has remained a designated free speech area at Texas State.
After the video of a Texas State student knocking down anti-abortion posters went viral, the status of the Stallions as a free speech area came into question.
Matthew Flores, university spokesman, said rules are outlined in the campus policy requiring permission from the office of Student Involvement ahead of time in order to speak through a megaphone or set up exhibits.
“The individual who requested that area to set up his posters had done that through the office of Student Involvement,” Flores said. “That individual had permission to be on our campus and show those posters.”
Flores said as long as demonstrators are abiding by campus rules, it is acceptable to set up exhibits and express opinions at the statue.
“It is intended to be an area for individuals who want to peacefully demonstrate and hold up signs, exhibits or banners,” Flores said. “It requires space to do those things. So that’s why that area is designated for putting things up on display.”
Flores said students are more than welcome to share their opinions near the stallions, but he wants them to know they can exercise their First Amendment rights anywhere on campus.
Connor Clegg, student body president, said more students should take advantage of their free speech everywhere on campus.
“I think it’s redundant and unnecessary to have a designated free speech area, when in reality, you can practice free speech wherever you’d like,” Clegg said. “That’s the beauty of the First Amendment.”
As student body president, Clegg said he doesn’t want to stop free speech at the Stallions—just expand it to other areas.
“Colton Duncan, I and a few others have been in conversation about changing what the university describes as a free speech zone,” Clegg said. “I don’t believe that type of designation should be limited to a few square feet around a statue.”
Clegg doesn’t want any incoming freshmen to have the misconception the Stallions are the only area where they can exercise free speech on campus.
The protests that occur near the Stallions showcase Texas State students who are willingly practicing their right to assembly and speech, Clegg said.
“While sometimes it makes it a little harder to squeeze through and get to class, I think that’s a small price to pay for the rights we’ve been afforded by the Constitution,” Clegg said.
Samantha Smothermon, applied sociology junior, said it’s important to have a place where students can have uninhibited conversations about current issues.
“Protests are an exhibition of what college should be about—finding yourself, discovering your values and sharing them with the world,” Smothermon said. “The Stallions are a perfect place for those kinds of events because they are in the middle of campus, and anyone passing by can observe or join.”
Dr. Sherri Benn, director of Student Diversity and Inclusion, said free speech areas provide a means for peaceful demonstration, opposing expressions and the open exchange of differing and complex ideologies.
“Since Texas State is a public institution, we should encourage, support and create opportunities for our students to be actively engaged in all aspects of democracy and the continuing development of their roles as active and involved citizens,” Benn said.
Benn said she wants students to understand some dialogue will create discomfort because diversity comes along with differing ideas, beliefs, values, cultures, identities, backgrounds and experiences.
“Now more than ever before, it is important we all learn, practice and commit to engage in difficult conversations with respect, civility, open minds and sincere intentions so that we might better understand, regard and respect each other,” Benn said. “We don’t have to always agree, but we should always make an earnest attempt to be agreeable.”