King’s Academy seniors submitted their jacket designs a few weeks ago, and as procedure demands, a committee of trusted King’s Academy personnel gather and either accept or reject the designs. Usually not giving the students the benefit of the doubt, many expressive, alongside disrespectful, designs were rejected. This sparked controversy amongst the students, especially around the idea of student freedom of speech.
During class-meeting a few weeks ago, Dr. John Austin, the headmaster asked the seniors to meet in the auditorium to discuss freedom of speech in King’s. After a conversation back and forth, Dr. John stated, “Freedom of speech is overrated.”
Without further explanation on that matter, this statement left the students in King’s quite stunned. The preaching of freedom of speech, of western values that go hand in hand with democracy, does not really go well with limiting it or slamming it with such statements. So yours sincerely went to the streets of King’s, along with Omar Abdelaal ’18, to see how far this statement truly resonates with the members of the community.
What do you think of the freedom of speech in King’s? and to what extent do you feel like you can express yourself without fearing any repercussions?
Some students expressed their sense of restriction on going against the status quo and popular opinions, they fear being judged or looked weirdly upon by the community as a whole.
“I feel like we have liberal boundaries ya3ni. You are allowed to give your opinion, but when it comes to cross the quota of liberal King’s students, then you are not allowed to express yourself.” said Ramsey Abdelrahim ’18, who took the first chance to voice about the matter, “I have seen this many times: if anyone wants to criticize feminism, for example, they would be shut down, not only by students but also by teachers.”
Similarly, other students feel like they are very limited to the extent of which they can express their ideas for they might be interpreted differently. “Some ideas cannot be expressed because you are going to be afraid that people will get mad because it’s against their idea.” said Roaa Al-Kilani ’19 “People take it as an offense just by expressing the idea itself sometimes.” seemingly hesitant on whether to mention her name on the record.
In response to that, students of King’s took it upon themselves to take matters into their own hands and protest the lack of freedom of speech in King’s. “Don’t teach me how to do and not let me do it!” – Talal Kolaghassi ’18. As well as many other banners that read, “10 years of no student voice!” among many others.
This was followed by a letter sent to the school’s headmaster describing the reasoning behind the protest, mainly about freedom of speech, but also about student involvement. “King’s teaches us to be expressive of who we are – be it our culture, nationality, religion, sexuality, or any other part of an identity – then suppresses our only chance to do just that.”
“People here do not feel as comfortable with coming out, which is something that should be accepted in a place as diverse as King’s” – Farah Hanandeh ’18. On a final note, an anonymous person decided to give a statement as follows:
“As a student body, we are very limited to what we can say and if we were to say anything we would be severely oppressed by the administration.”