While most people were following the story of the University of Missouri media studies professor who bullied a student journalist in several viral videos, the school’s student body vice president had a blunt response for journalists who claimed their first amendment rights were being violated.
Mizzou student body VP Brenda Smith-Lezama spoke with MSNBC about the declared safe spaces and why students (and some faculty) were trying to keep reporters out of them. When questioned about these “teachable moments” — with the caveat that “the cameras are going to go away soon” — Smith-Lezama said “journalists… cannot approach these situations with hostility and anger as it only escalates the situation.”
That comment stemmed from her observation that the viral videos focused on the student journalist didn’t show “pushy” and “aggressive” visiting reporters who purportedly weren’t as calm as their student counterparts.
However, the real meat of the segment came when Smith-Lezama was asked about similar cases of racial discrimination and disparity at other universities. Complaints against these student-led protests noted that colleges were seemingly becoming “places of censor and prohibition.” Mizzou’s student body VP was blatantly honest in her response.
“I personally am tired of hearing that First Amendment rights protect students when they are creating a hostile and unsafe learning environment for myself and for other students here. I think that it’s important for us to create that distinction and create a space where we can all learn from one another and start to create a place of healing rather than a place where we are experiencing a lot of hate like we have in the past.”
Smith-Lezama doesn’t say so directly, but one of the immediate implications of her response is that the First Amendment rights she’s tired of hearing about are responsible for “creating a hostile and unsafe learning environment.”