We are blessed in this country to be able to express ourselves freely.
That right is guaranteed under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
While we as a people might not always agree with one another on issues, everyone’s right of freedom of expression should be respected and protected.
We believe this right extends to Western Kentucky University student and Student Government Sen. John Winstead. Winstead has been criticized for being critical of WKU President Gary Randsell on social media and allegedly holding a sign at the recent homecoming football game that read “impeach Ransdell.”
Because of his speaking his mind about his dislike for Ransdell, Winstead now faces a hearing Wednesday before the SGA’s Judicial Council. Winstead could potentially face censure – an expression of disapproval of a senator’s actions that does not result in a loss of membership in the SGA – for apparently voicing opposition to Ransdell at the football game and on social media. The hearing is to determine if Winstead’s alleged actions are appropriate for an SGA senator. The matter of his free speech rights will be considered.
To be clear, this hearing was not initiated by Randsell; it is solely being launched by a member of the council.
While the judgment in calling for the hearing could be questioned, it is the council’s right to hold the proceeding as that is part of its duties. But we argue that Winstead is simply using his freedom of speech on a college campus. Just because he is a SGA senator doesn’t mean that he cannot speak his mind, even when it pertains to Ransdell.
While we disagree with Winstead that Ransdell should be removed as WKU president, we do believe that Winstead’s freedom of expression gives him the right to criticize another senator or the president of the university.
SGA President Jay Todd Richey was spot on when he said he disagrees with Winstead but supports his right to expression.
We think Winstead made a good point as well when he told the Daily News that hearings such as this discourage dissent. Peaceful dissent against university policies or a administration should be allowed on any campus.
We hope this hearing isn’t an attempt to quash dissent from Winstead and will give the council the benefit of the doubt that it is not. If it is, though, it could potentially set a bad precedent and have a chilling effect on freedom of expression.
It’s quite obvious that Winstead is not a fan of Ransdell. There are probably others who aren’t fans of him, either, since no one in that position can please everyone. Nevertheless, a person has the right to express dislike of that president, no matter whether he or she is a SGA senator.
Bowling Green Daily News