Past Event

The Impact of Virginia Tech—Freedom of Speech & Race

In the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings the nation has been on edge, cautiously eying young men in high schools and universities around the country. Last week, Allen Lee, an 18-year-old senior at Cary-Grove High School in Illinois, was arrested and removed from classes for turning in an essay that contained profanity, violent imagery, and a condemnation of his teacher. The assignment instructed students to write continuously for 30 minutes without correcting or censoring their work.

Experts have accused Virginia Tech authorities of not recognizing warning signs Seung-Hui Cho displayed before going on the rampage. Did the authorities in Cary overreact? How can teachers differentiate between creativity and thinly veiled threats of violence in writing assignments? Where is the line between provocative creativity and alarm? Can violent writings suggest that someone may commit mass murder? What does this mean in regards to freedom of expression for students? Should students be subject to arrest for what they write in their classes?

Some accuse the teacher, school authorities, and police involved in the Cary-Grove incident of racism. As was Cho, Lee is Asian-American. Is Lee the victim of a racist backlash against Asian and Asian-American men? Would Lee have been arrested if he was not Asian-American? Have the media and the nation put too much emphasis on race and ethnicity in the Virginia Tech shooting? Is race even relevant as we try to understand Virginia Tech and subsequent shootings? Are Asians under special scrutiny now?

Join us this week at Café Society.

Suggested Readings:

Student writes essay, arrested by police

Paranoia Runs High After Virginia Tech Shootings

Student arrest is no threat to free speech

Virginia Korean community still reeling

What May Come: Asian Americans and the Virginia Tech Shootings

Walking Over Allen Lee

For more informaiton, please contact Kristin Millikan at 312.422.5580.