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Rules and the Double Standard of NAU Policy Defenders

By Elisha Dorfsmith

Yesterday I was killing some time at the Old Town Shops in downtown Flagstaff. While I was sitting there I started flipping through the current edition of the Lumberjack and came across another article on the recent free speech incident at NAU.

This seems to be a story that won’t go away. Hardly a day goes by where there is not at least some mention of it in the AZ Daily Sun or other local media. Yesterday’s paper was no exception as a letter to the editor was published supporting the students. While I take some exception to the author labeling them as tea party students (I have no idea if these students consider themselves to be part of the tea party or not) I do appreciate his thoughts.

One thing that all of the articles, letters, editorials and of course the youtube video have in common is lots and lots of comments from people (many of them leaders in local education and government) saying that rules are rules that must be followed even if we disagree with them. Some have even said that we should not question rules because even if we don’t understand them they are there for a reason and exist with our best interests in mind.

As I was sitting in the Old Town Shops reading the Lumberjack article, “Save The Peaks” activists walked through leaving a trail of anti Snowbowl leaflets.

This got me to thinking. I read lots of local political blogs, message boards and facebook pages and some of the most vocal critics of the NAU students are strongly supporting the Save The Peaks activists who are going way beyond questioning rules and are actually breaking countless laws and vandalizing public and private property to get their message across.

Furthermore, many of those critical of the free speech incident at NAU (including teachers) encouraged and even facilitated civil disobedience by staging a massive walkout of middle and high school students to protest SB1070 in front of Flagstaff City Hall. Many rules were broken and leaders at NAU and Flagstaff Unified School District (not to mention several local activist groups who are now attacking conservative NAU students) applauded these kids for taking a stand and questioning the law.

In addition to local issues, some of the same groups who are attacking the free speech defenders at NAU for possibly “blocking hall traffic” or “violating fire codes”  held solidarity protests at Flagstaff City Hall supporting the Wisconsin union protests. Protests that included teachers illegally pulling kids out of school and breaking into the capital building. Apparently, damaging and breaking into a public building and violating every fire code on the books qualifies as an appropriate “time, place and manner” if it’s for the right cause.

Please keep in mind that there were only three (3) NAU students standing against a wall on 9/11 handing out flags. Keep in mind that the students were NOT being disruptive or disturbing studies. Keep in mind that the video of the incident clearly shows plenty of room as foot traffic flows smoothly through the hall.  The fire hazard claim by NAU staff does not hold up and no matter how you look at it, spontaneous free speech was suppressed.

NAU Dean of students, Rick Brandel, is quoted in the Lumberjack article as saying:

“In this case, it sort of became the issue of free speech, my right for that, versus does the university have the right to say, ok here’s where we would like you to facilitate that free speech.”

That statement alone throws up all kinds of red flags for me. I am very thankful that some NAU students are taking a stand and questioning policy that restrict free expression on a public campus paid for with my tax dollars.

Regardless of how you feel about any of the above examples of rules being questioned and laws being broken, you have to admit that there is a massive double standard.  Those who are complaining the loudest about conservative NAU students defending their rights often encourage and support the breaking of rules and policy when it comes to promoting their own agenda.


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