OU president sympathizes with students offended by pro-Trump messages on free speech wall
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.
According to The Athens Post, the words “Trump 2016” and “Build The Wall!” were discovered Thursday morning painted on the Graffiti Wall, a long-standing fixture on campus where students are encouraged to write anything they want.
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.
“The fact that it said 'Trump 2016' isn’t offensive,” Carla Triana, the group’s president, explained at the meeting. “The 'build a wall' part is offensive.”
Jordan Hummel, an OU student who runs the @OUforTrump16 Twitter account, denied that his group was behind the graffiti—suggesting they would have used a “better slogan”—but observed that “we do like seeing people coming out in support for Trump.”
One of the main topics discussed at the meeting was the implementation of mandatory cultural competency classes, which are reportedly in the process of being developed.
“It’s important to learn about different cultures and I don’t understand why we don’t have required cultural competency classes,” theater major Simone Anderson complained. “Instead of reacting to these kinds of events, why don’t we try to be proactive and educate ourselves? That’s how we can fix this.”
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.”
McDavis noted that those he met with at the meeting expressed concern that “those words were ones of unwelcome, of divide,” making them question “whether they would continue to be welcome” at the university.
“Words are only temporary; however, their impact can be everlasting,” he asserted [bolding in original]. “So, to the members of the Bobcat community who were hurt by yesterday’s words, here are my words to you: I value you. I believe in you. I support you.”
Prior to McDavis’ statement, the OU LGBT Center tweeted its own response Thursday night, showing the Trump graffiti painted over with messages such as “#Build Bridges Not Walls” and “Latino Pride.”
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