At Ohio University, mortal offence is in the eye of the beholder
Another day, another American university cravenly submitting to the identity politics bullies and their weaponised mental weakness.
Now, the president of Ohio University has apologised to students in a letter because unknown other students dared to exercise their First Amendment rights by spraying a political sentiment (expressing support for Donald Trump – pass the smelling salts!) on the university’s famous Graffiti Wall.
The Athens Post reports:
The graffiti wall by Bentley Hall was found painted over with the words “Trump 2016” and “Build The Wall!!” on Thursday.
Some Ohio University students were upset by the display.
“I felt disgust, frustration and I expected more from this campus,” Joshelyn Smith, a senior studying communication and public advocacy, said.
The Hispanic and Latino Student Union at OU put together an emergency meeting that took place in OU’s Multicultural Center after finding out about the mural and ultimately painted over it at 3 p.m. Thursday.
“The goal of the meeting was to start a discussion,” Carla Triana, Hispanic and Latino Student Union president, said. “We heard about (the mural) at 9 this morning, and we had to do something instantaneously. We had to educate people on why this was offensive.”
Yes – clearly nothing was more important than holding an “emergency meeting” to explain why declaring support for a political candidate on a wall honouring free speech is so “offensive” as to warrant seeking out and punishing the perpetrators.
Sadly, much as we saw with the college Equal Opportunities administrators who gleefully shredded the US Constitution in an attempt to soothe the hurt feelings of a student (really an undercover reporter) who claimed to feel “triggered” by the document, Ohio University was lightning quick to apologise to the outraged students.
Even though these students are nothing but bullies, attempting to use their hurt feelings as a weapon to shut down the fundamental free speech rights of others, Ohio University leaders could not find it within themselves to stand up to the identity politics cultists and tell them to grow a thicker skin.
Campus Reform reports:
The president of Ohio University sent a campus-wide email expressing sympathy for those “hurt” by pro-Trump slogans written on a free speech wall last week.
[..] The Hispanic and Latino Student Union called an emergency meeting—attended by university president Roderick McDavis— to “start a discussion … on why this was offensive,” after which they decided to paint over the messages.
[..] McDavis assured attendees that he shared their concerns, and was working to accelerate the development of a cultural competency element for freshman orientation, following that up the next day with a message to the campus community discussing the “beauty and power” of words in the context of sympathizing with those offended by the Trump-inspired messages.
“Yesterday, I met with students and members of our Hispanic/Latino community who saw words that troubled them on the Graffiti Wall,” McDavis wrote. “Indeed, this wall is a place of free speech and expression; however, the words painted were troubling because they had a very different meaning to some than they may have to others viewing the message or even to those who painted the message.”
But this frantic attempt by McDavis to mollify the angry students by adopting their identity politics language and accepting the premise of their complaint is exactly the problem. When you move away from an objective standard of what constitutes unacceptable (or “problematic”) free speech toward a worldview where speech can be restricted or punished based on the subjective feelings and interpretation of certain third parties, then you no longer have anything like freedom of speech.
If the words “Trump 2016” or “Build the Wall” were troubling to some students because they chose to interpret them as “I hate Hispanic/Latino people” rather than “let’s adopt this policy in a (counter-productive) attempt to enforce our border”, does this mean that the political idea can no longer be expressed for fear of upsetting those who apply the worst possible interpretation of the words in their minds?
What about other political statements? If one follows this logic, do we not end up in a situation where any conservative sentiment is liable to be banned after being wilfully misinterpreted by angry students wielding their fragile “mental safety” as a weapon?
(And incidentally, although it does not excuse Trump’s worst rhetoric about immigration, the fact that the identity politics practising American Left immediately interpret any call for immigration control as smoking gun evidence of deep racism – meaning that the political opinions of countless people are effectively made taboo – is one of the reasons why Donald Trump is now serving as such a successful and dangerous pressure release valve for years of previously unchannelled anger).
This is a textbook case of how not to respond to an identity politics-based student power grab on campus. As soon as university administrators conceded the premise of the complaint – that words spoken, written or painted can cause “harm”, and that this is unacceptable even if the harm is only incurred by applying the worst possible interpretation of the speech in question – they lost the war. They frantically scrambled to mollify the students in an attempt to buy themselves peace, but they will only succeed in emboldening the student activists to take offence even more easily and demand even greater concessions in future.
One can predict with reasonable confidence that there will now be one or more forced resignations from the Ohio University faculty or administration in the coming year, either as a result of what has already happened or because of some future non-existent transgression against the student population. And it will be richly deserved, for those who fail to defend academic freedom and free speech have no place running our universities.
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