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Editorial Board

Don’t sign anti-First Amendment petition

Kent State’s Anti-War Committee has started a petition and, assuming it gets the 2,500 signatures it desires, plan to present the petition to the university in order to ban military recruitment on campus. Their reasoning is that Kent State’s anti-discrimination policy would not permit recruiters for any organization that judges based upon race, religion, creed, sexual orientation, etc … The committee members believe the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for sexual orientation violates the university’s policy.

The committee’s efforts are an unfortunate attack on freedom of speech, as well as a potential affront to students seeking employment in the military.

First and foremost, Kent State, as a public institution, needs to respect First Amendment law, which would allow recruiters access to the university. Once before, and always after, this editorial board believes in the power of the freedom of speech and in the value of the marketplace of ideas. We believe that a successful society will value all opinions for opinion’s sake and enact those that are most suited for a civil society.

And while we do not stand by discrimination, all language, at its core, is at least in part, discriminatory. One cannot say “red” without discriminating against “blue,” for red and blue are different colors and any desire to speak cogently will force one to deny one when upholding the other.

The above example is extreme. However, there is a lesson in it that says speech is inherently discriminatory, and that’s OK. In fact, the anti-war committee also uses discriminatory language by making an ethical claim that discrimination is bad; they discriminate against discrimination. And this claim, of course, is not a bad claim, but it must be recognized that the freedom to make this claim outweighs the ethical cause they support. In America, the greatest ethic is freedom of speech. Not even life is greater, for many men and women have sacrificed their lives to gain this freedom, and many more have died using it.

Beyond the freedom of speech end of this argument lies a more pragmatic one, chiefly that the university needs to look out for the best interest of its student body and, since students with college degrees can often get jobs in the military as officers, rather than as privates like most enlisted men and women, the benefits are great.

In a world where even a college degree doesn’t guarantee someone an entry-level position with benefits in that field, the military might be a fine option for many individuals. There are, of course, ethical concerns to be weighed in joining the military (i.e., complete obedience to the Commander in Chief, possibly taking a human life, etc …) but those decisions must be left to the individual, not an organization with a clipboard and a motive.

If the committee truly desired to change the military’s policy toward homosexuals, it would do well to petition its congressmen and women. Such an attempt to limit the individual rights of students at Kent State is deplorable.

For the sake of speech and employment, all those petitioned to sign the petition should politely decline and do so knowing that options are better than restrictions.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board, whose members are listed to the left.