Colleges across the country have struggled to draw the line between free speech and offensive action. Last week, USF found itself once again in the middle of the conversation after a picture posted on Instagram showed the Martin Luther King Jr. bust which resides in the MLK Plaza wearing a Donald Trump campaign hat.
The caption read “MLK KNOWS … #Trump2016.” Immediately, students began sharing and commenting on the image, some with support, many in anger. News stations across the Bay area began reporting on the controversy as students’ hostility grew.
Obviously, any figure as revered and revolutionary as Martin Luther King Jr. should not have his or her name dragged through the muck that is the 2016 election. It would have been disrespectful whether the hat supported Trump, Cruz, Sanders or Clinton.
It is understandable that people are angry, however, it is important we don’t forget the rights granted to every citizen in the U.S., including the right to free speech.
The student that took the photo more than likely was just hoping to get a chuckle out of a few friends, not stir up a viral conversation on the right to violate such an esteemed memorial to promote personal views.
Now, thanks to one person, the city is looking at USF students with disgust. When one person fails to have the decency to respect cherished icons, the entire student body suffers.
If you are an avid supporter of a candidate — by all means — go out of your way to lend your voice to his or her cause. That’s the glory of free speech. You can voice opinions that may not be held by everyone without fear of retribution from your government.
College campuses are ideal for sharing personal views as you are literally surrounded by people from every background, religion, race and walk of life. Your ideas are going to be tested and reformed, and ultimately, you will leave as a better person.
But there is a right way and a wrong way to express those ideas. Yelling through a megaphone outside the library, chalking controversial messages and tarnishing the name of prominent figures in American history are all senseless methods to sharing your views.
However, having a civil conversation with your fellow classmates, attending events centered on a topic you are passionate about and getting involved in organizations that share your belief are easy ways to responsibly express how you feel.
Hopefully, students will recognize last week’s actions only bring shame to our school. Politics is not a joke, nor is the legacy left behind from iconic Americans like Martin Luther King Jr.
As the campaign for the upcoming presidency heats up, citizens across the nation will become more passionate about whom they think is best to lead. While you have the right to express that view in whatever way you please, try to remember to be tactful in your movement.
Using disrespectful methods to further a cause will only make those who may otherwise have considered your stance close themselves off to your beliefs.
Breanne Williams is a junior majoring in mass communications.