The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Texas A&M utility Gavin Grahovac (9) throws the ball during A&Ms game against Georgia on Friday, April 26, 2024, at Olsen Field. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
Southern slugfest
May 23, 2024
Texas A&M pitcher Evan Aschenbeck (53) reacts after throwing the final strike out during Texas A&M’s game against Mississippi State on Saturday, March 23, 2024, at Olsen Field. (Chris Swann/ The Battalion)
Down but not out
May 23, 2024
Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
A&M System’s Title IX director suspended after supporting Biden's Title IX changes
Nicholas Gutteridge, Managing Editor • May 23, 2024
A fighter jet squadron flies over during the National Anthem before Texas A&M’s game against Arkansas at Olsen Field on Saturday, May 18, 2024. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
Bryan-College Station Regional participants announced
Ian Curtis, Sports Writer • May 27, 2024

For the second time in three seasons, No. 3 national seed Texas A&M baseball will host the Bryan-College Station Regional, where it’ll...

Beekeeper Shelby Dittman scoops bees back into their hive during a visit on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Kyle Heise/The Battalion)
Bee-hind the scenes
Shalina Sabih, Sports Writer • May 1, 2024

The speakers turn on. Static clicks. And a voice reads “Your starting lineup for the Texas A&M Aggies is …” Spectators hear that...

Kennedy White, 19, sits for a portrait in the sweats she wore the night of her alleged assault inside the Y.M.C.A building that holds Texas A&M’s Title IX offices in College Station, Texas on Feb. 16, 2024 (Ishika Samant/The Battalion).
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April 25, 2024
Scenes from 74
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April 25, 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Opinion: A&M: One of the worst colleges for free speech?

Art by Ana Sofia Sloane
Free speech at A&M

Trampling expressive freedom. Crushing faculty rights. Leaving guest speakers in the dust. Destroying student expression.
… Welcome to Aggieland?
On Feb. 10, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, or FIRE, published its annual “10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech List.” Featured in this exclusive selection? Our very own Texas A&M.
The criteria for this ranking revolve around three A&M scandals: the cancellation of Draggieland, the restructuring of Fish Camp and the attempted print shutdown of The Battalion. None of these situations exemplify a particularly harmonious relationship between students and leadership — an inarguable fact.
Nevertheless, I can’t help but question if this “special dishonor” is truly merited.
First of all, FIRE named this very same university “the best in Texas for campus speech policies” a mere four years ago. In fact, the vice president of policy reform at FIRE, Azhar Majeed, encouraged other universities to “follow Texas A&M’s lead and put the First Amendment first.”
Quite the praise, no?
To make matters even more confusing, A&M received a green light in FIRE’s 2023 College Free Speech Rankings, which means our university’s written policies were not found to “seriously threaten campus expression.” Only 60 institutions received a green light this year, a small fraction of the 375 four-year public institutions and 111 top private institutions considered in total.
A rare moment in my writing history, I must say I agree with A&M: “[FIRE’s] more recent list does not appear to rely on its own data.”
Not to mention, this data is as varied as it is contradicting — a scroll down the incriminating list reveals that our university’s offenses pale in comparison to those of the other colleges.
Collin College fired a professor for advocating the removal of Confederate statues and criticizing the institution’s COVID-19 policies. Loyola University ordered a student to stop passing out flyers promoting a pro-choice march. The president of Tennessee Tech fully banned students of a gay-straight alliance group from hosting events on campus.
During my time here at A&M, I don’t recall witnessing such acts of outright censure and retribution.
Now, am I declaring this university to be a perfect haven of liberty? No.
Cutting Draggieland from MSC Town Hall’s calendar last year blindsided Aggies who participate in and cherish the popular event. Plans to change Fish Camp’s traditional location, motto and decision-making hierarchy have left student leaders in the dark. The infamous attempt to terminate The Battalion’s print editions and unceremoniously merge the newspaper into the Department of Communication and Journalism left countless shocked at the disregard for time-honored tradition and autonomy of the press.
Yet, I can’t ignore the force of the student body, which united in protest and fought in the face of these unwelcome changes.
Through the efforts of LGBTQ+ communities and student organizations across campus, the Draggieland program raised $5,000 in donations within a week and is planned to continue on campus in April. When news of The Battalion broke out last year, thousands of students and supporters signed petitions to save the publication and the hashtag “#SaveTheBatt” circulated through social media like wildfire. As of today, the beloved newspaper is still printing.
We students are strong, not silenced — an influential force free to raise our voices in disagreement and opposition, achieving change more often than not. Friction between faculty leadership and the student body does not warrant being painted as some Orwellian oppressive regime.
A&M’s diverse student organizations, guest speakers and events further prove this to be true.
Polarizing figures like Greg Abbott, Beto O’Rourke and Ben Shapiro have all been welcomed with a microphone and sold-out Rudder Theatre and Auditorium. Clashing groups such as the Young Americans for Freedom and Young Democratic Socialists of America are open for any student who may be interested.
In fact, I’ve often wished our university would exercise more restrictions over who is given a soapbox on campus — the times I’ve had to walk by the Academic Plaza and witness random pop-up speakers preaching homophobia and women’s rights violations are truly nauseating. Alas, free speech is free speech.
So, deserved or not?
Undeniably, there is room for improvement, especially in the alignment of student and administration values. Overstepped boundaries and domineering decisions are unfair to all.
However, the issues at A&M simply don’t seem severe enough to merit being distinguished as the absolute “worst of the worst” out of 486 of the nation’s top colleges and universities.
All things considered, I say not deserved.
Ana Sofia Sloane is a political science sophomore and opinion columnist for The Battalion.

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Ana Sofia Sloane
Ana Sofia Sloane, Associate Opinion Editor
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