College campuses are breeding grounds for anyone who wants to exercise their free speech. I did not realize how easy it was for the general public to walk onto our college campus without anyone blinking an eye until I got here. It is commonplace to see whole families, people with dogs, etc. walking through campus. The average college doesn't pay attention to who we're walking by or worry about who they are... and why would we? It's a college campus; we're never going to know everyone so seeing an unfamiliar face isn't particularly alarming. The times we do pay attention to who is on campus, however, is when they are yelling and disrupting our day when we're just trying to get to class.
In recent weeks, there have been several strangers walking onto campus in the form of two bigoted faux-Christian groups and an anti-abortion group playing live abortion videos in the middle of campus. All three of these groups have engaged in yelling at and harassing students, targeting women and LGBTQ+ folk with threats of rape and damnation to hell. When one faux-Christian group of old men occupied the steps of the education building, classes were canceled due to their disruption. When the anti-abortion group set up camp in the center of campus, they blocked walkways and were almost impossible to avoid.
Every time that I've wondered aloud to my friends, campus police, or the person next to me protesting why these people are allowed on campus, I'm met with the same answer: it's a public campus. While I understand that it's near impossible — and for the most part, unnecessary — to keep non-BG students or faculty off campus, I do not understand why the safety of students and faculty aren't prioritized over people who just want to walk onto campus to harass us. I pay money to live on-campus and receive an education, not to worry about threatening groups creating a dangerous space in the place I'm supposed to think of as my "home away from home."
These groups have permits and often alert the school as to when they will be on campus. So if the university has this knowledge, why aren't they at the very least giving paying students and dutiful faculty a heads up that these kinds of people will be on our campus? Why do they leave it up to us to walk into a potentially triggering or dangerous situation, to just be walking to class trying to get through the commotion and have an old man tell women that they're going to be raped because they're wearing shorts? (Yes, that really happened.)
The university owes it to us to keep students in the loop as to who is going to be on campus and why. And students of color/ LGBTQ+ folk shouldn't have to worry about being shut down for organizing their own protests if strangers who aren't contributing anything to our school are allowed to just walk on and cause a commotion without question. Free speech, anyone?