Campus Reform | OPINION: I was harassed & threatened for opposing student government race quota

OPINION: I was harassed & threatened for opposing student government race quota

The Indiana University Student Congress overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment to appoint seats for campus multicultural centers and minority student organizations.

Students who opposed the bill were harassed, threatened, and disparaged as “racist” and “white supremacist.”

The Indiana University Student Congress overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment to appoint seats for campus multicultural centers and minority student organizations. 

The amendment, which passed by a vote of 40-5-2, mandates that multicultural centers and minority student organizations be given at least 31 seats in the Student Congress but allows for nearly 100 seats to be appointed. 

Currently, the student congress is made up of 62 elected seats that are divided between the degree-granting institutions on campus and the different housing options for students. The amendment aims to increase “representation” in what is already an elected and inherently representative body. 

The bill’s authors and advocates feel that not enough minority and LGBTQ+ students were elected, and aim to remedy that by simply appointing those students to Congress.

While this amendment is deeply problematic and undemocratic, the manner in which it was debated and passed is utterly frightening.  Members of Congress and other student leaders attacked, defamed, and openly threatened any student who dared oppose this legislation, including me.

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As soon as I and a few of my fellow congress members offered our critiques of the bill, we were bombarded with vitriol and hostility. The students leading the attack included the IU Black Student Union president, the university Culture Club president, the Latinos Unidos at IU co-president, the Beta Phi Beta president and NPHC vice president, the authors of the bill, student congress members; the congressional parliamentarian; the congressional recorder, and many others who are too numerous to name.

These individuals quickly denigrated us as “racist,” “white supremacist,” “disgusting,” and “uneducated.” Member after member took the opportunity to disparage, defame, and attack us. After I and others requested that we keep the conversation civil, one student, who has baselessly alleged on numerous occasions that the university and the student government are predicated on white supremacy and racism, caustically apologized for “educating” me on my “white supremacy” and “racism.”

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After around an hour of constant beratement, I was finally given an opportunity to defend myself and my colleagues. I attempted to explain that we fully support diversity, yet are also in favor of free and fair elections and would like to see representatives democratically elected rather than appointed. I communicated that I would be in favor of further outreach efforts to marginalized communities in order to make sure their voices were heard, but am fundamentally opposed to appointing members in order to fill an absurd diversity quota. 

However, I was quickly informed by a number of students that “democracy” and specifically “American democracy,” are inherently “racist” and rooted in “white supremacy” and that my and my colleagues’ opposition to the bill is simply a symptom of our “white fragility” and “racial bias.”

When the bill’s supporters demanded to know who I was representing as a congress member, as they had heard “nothing but support” for the amendment from their constituents and student groups on campus, I attempted to explain that I was voicing the concerns of the many conservative student organizations on campus, including Turning Point USA, Young Americans for Freedom, and the College Republicans -- who are routinely silenced by students and the university administration. But, predictably, the concerns and opinions of these groups were dismissed as members of congress and student leaders alike decried them as “white supremacist” and “racist” organizations.

A particularly disheartening moment in the debate was when my friend and fellow student congressman was brutally attacked for simply asking if Christian student organizations would be given seat as other religious organizations were. After one student congressman berated my friend and fellow congressman, asking him to “justify” his question, I pleaded with the meeting attendees to try to maintain decorum and civility. That request, however, prompted another outburst as it was alleged that decorum and civility were also products of “white supremacy” and that the attendees should not have to recognize these racist constructs.

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Throughout the meeting, proponents of the bill told opponents, “we are watching you,” that they were “documenting this,” and that anyone who votes against this bill is “racist.” A number of members, justifiably, felt threatened, intimidated, and unsafe due to these comments.

Carling Louden, a student congresswomen and a member of the Network of Enlightened Women at IU, expressed to me that she felt “discomfort and uneasiness regarding the intimidation and harassment” that she and other congress members “were faced with” during the meeting. 

She continued, stating "as someone who doesn’t shy away from confrontation and has never felt uncomfortable expressing my feelings, I was deeply disturbed when my opinions and ideas [were] shot down and labeled unjustly” as racist.

She added that she had never “experienced such threatening language” and that “the combative language [used by] students that were not even members of IUSG made [her] and others feel intimidated and uncomfortable during a discussion that should have been educational and open for debate.”

Louden concluded by stating that she thinks “it is wrong for students to attempt to oppress opposing viewpoints, as they are crucial for open discussions. It is also wrong for any members of any organization to feel intimidated and uncomfortable in sharing their own opinions and viewpoints.”

After the meeting, representatives and students took to Twitter to further disparage those who chose not to support the bill. A number of students tweeted out how each student voted in attempts to ostracize and defame the bill’s opponents. Another Twitter user stated that not supporting the bill was “racist” and that she was going to “NAME THE SPECIFIC PEOPLE” who voted against it. One person tweeted, “still can’t believe white people think that representation of marginalized people is ‘unfair’ stfu, I’m sick of it. WTF do I have to do to explain equity v. equality.” Another stated that people should “remember” how these representatives voted and that those who voted against the bill are “not here for diversity, despite what they say.”

However, what was perhaps more disheartening than how I and my peers were treated by our fellow students, was the university’s response. 

No university employees who were present at the meeting voiced any support for the students being harassed, much less denounce the libelous and defamatory language being used. I reached out later to the faculty advisor for the IU Student Congress on behalf of myself and my peers who were disparaged and defamed and asked if he or the university would offer a public statement condemning the actions and statements of the students involved or if the university would be pursuing disciplinary actions for said students.  

The faculty advisor, while expressing some sympathy for our situation, stated that neither he nor the university would offer any statement or pursue any disciplinary action relating to the events of the meeting, essentially condoning the vile actions and statements of congress members and student leaders present.

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While deeply disheartening and frightening, an incident like this is not at all unusual on American college campuses. Conservative students and faculty are disparaged and harassed every day on nearly every university campus.

This reality has to change. Colleges should stand up for conservative students, make clear that they do not condone these disparaging and defamatory comments, and discourage leftist students who seek to advance identity politics from doing so. Only then will there be true equality on campus.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @kylehreynolds