(Nicole Sanders/Courtesy photo)

Promoting free speech: voicing passion and frustration

The Free Speech Ball was brought to Fresno State Wednesday to promote free speech by encouraging students to write a thought on a giant inflatable beach ball.

Two representatives from Turning Point USA, a nonprofit political activist organization, and the Leadership Institute, an organization that trains conservatives in political campaigns and communications, provided the Free Speech Ball.

Students could write anything that came to mind. Words of passion or frustration, political or personal – all voices were welcome and open for discussion. The goal was to promote free speech around the entire campus, not just in a free speech zone.

“Basically what we do is we roll this around campus, and we let anybody write whatever they want on it because we want to remind people that they have that ability,” said Sara Correia, field director for Turning Point USA. “We are against free speech zones and safe spaces because we think that once you start to confine somebody’s free speech to [an area] … we are Americans we have those rights. We are able to practice our First Amendment right — all of our rights wherever we please.”

A majority of students responded well to the activity. Groups followed the ball from the Kennel Bookstore to the start of the Free Speech Area near the Henry Madden Library.

The Free Speech Ball was also used as a way to start a conversation between individuals with opposing opinions.

“I think we should all value each other’s opinion, and people have the right to disagree and so do I, and that’s the beauty of being an American,” Correia said.

Both representatives reminded students that with freedom of speech comes responsibility.

“What we stress to students is that freedom of speech does not mean you have the freedom to harass, threaten or call for the death of somebody. That’s not freedom of speech,” said Nicole Sanders, field representative of the Leadership Institute. “You’re not free from the consequences of your speech. If you want to use your speech in a really offensive or hateful way, degrading people based on their sex, or their religion, or their [skin] color, you are not free from the consequences of that.”