To the editor:
The Nov. 5 column “I am told I am going to burn in hell on Salem campus every week” by Joey Wolongevicz was disturbing. The response of the university’s administration was even more disturbing than the crazy antics and hate-filled rhetoric of the “Uninvited Visitors.”
The administration purports to be teaching students to respect First Amendment rights of free speech. The interesting thing about rights is this: everybody has them. When one person’s right to freedom of speech interferes with another’s right to freedom from harassment, then it’s time to resort to common sense and the law.
Massachusetts state law prohibits disturbance of the peace – a punishable offense under MGL Ch. 272, Sec. 53(b). State law supersedes municipal law (or lack of it), so local police are obligated to enforce state law. Have they not been called? State law also prohibits trespassing (MGL 266/120). Aren’t the unwelcome guests trespassing?
The Salem campus administration appears to be teaching the wrong lesson. Instead of teaching students how to tolerate abuse, they should be teaching them how to get free of it. Instead of protecting bullies, they should be teaching students how to stand up to them. Instead of coddling perpetrators, they should teach students how to apply the law and send them packing. Why not a lesson in how to apply for a restraining order?
What Mr. Wolongevicz’s column describes is a situation not good for anyone, even the perpetrators. Enabling abusers to continue to abuse isn’t good for them either. It sends a wrong message.
At the very least, the Salem campus administration should stop trying to teach students to be willing victims. Instead, affirm their inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, along with the practical and legal steps to remove loud, aggressive and abusive bullies.
Instructing anyone to put up with abuse is itself a form of re-abuse. The campus needs a course correction.