Open air preachers on Sanford Mall rub students the wrong way

Laney Ruckstuhl

Preachers can often be seen on Appalachian State University’s Sanford Mall during the week, likely accompanied by crowds of students.

This is possible due to Sanford Mall being one of Appalachian’s free speech zones, which are protected under the first amendment. However, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education recently gave the university a yellow speech code rating.

According to FIRE’s review of Appalachian, yellow light colleges and universities are those institutions with at least one ambiguous policy that too easily encourages administrative abuse and arbitrary application.

According to FIRE, the following App State speech code policies are sub-par: Types of Harassment-Hostile Environment, Harassment, Use of Computers and Data Communications and Sexual Harassment. However, FIRE does not offer any suggestions on how to improve on those policies.

“I think it’s great that freedom of speech is a thing [on our campus], but there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed sometimes,”  junior graphic design major Katie Lee said. “With the preachers, I feel they can be too much. They force ideas and materials on students while going to class and interrupt the peaceful environment on Sanford Mall.”

Lee said she thinks people should have to get permission from the school to preach on Sanford Mall because some of the things they say are degrading.

Representative for Open Air Outreach Jesse Morrell, more commonly known as a Sanford Mall preacher, said he approves of the university’s free speech policy.

“A real academic environment would not seek to isolate its students and have a monopoly on their minds by isolating them from those who have contrary opinions to its own,” Morrell said.

FIRE did deem two of Appalachian’s speech code policies as “green light policies.” Those were the Unscheduled Public Speaking Areas policy, which allows free speech on certain areas on campus, and the Public Assembly policy that grants anyone the right to hand out written materials other than for commercial use.

“The day freedom of speech is vanquished from university campuses would be the day that dogmatic indoctrination and brainwashing becomes the modus operandi of pseudo-education,” Morell said.

Story: Clare McPherson, News Copy Editor