EXCLUSIVE UPDATE: College Republicans can now sell ‘Back the Blue’ apparel, but only to members
Ohio Northern University relaxed its earlier ban on the shirt after Campus Reform reporting convinced the administration to revisit the issue.
An official with the university's College Republicans chapter stated that the outcome was 'better than nothing.'
Campus Reform reported earlier this month on the denial of a “Back the Blue” shirt designed by the College Republicans chapter at Ohio Northern University.
ONU College Republicans president Madeline Markwood submitted a shirt design to the university's Communications and Marketing Department with the pro-police phrase printed on the sleeve and a Thin Blue Line flag printed on the back.
The department denied Markwood’s submission because other schools have had to “retract and apologize” for similar initiatives.
But after Campus Reform reported on the matter, university leadership reached out to Markwood.
“The article grabbed the attention of not only the president of the university, but also the dean of students,” Markwood told Campus Reform.
According to Markwood, she was subsequently asked to attend a meeting with dean of students, Adrian Thompson Bradshaw, to discuss the controversy.
In the meeting, Markwood told Campus Reform that she was asked why the club wished to sell these shirts on campus and how it would address students’ concerns and issues with the design.
Markwood said that she replied by saying, “We're not here to target them. We're not here to make them feel unsafe. We're just supporting a movement.”
When asked why this was important to College Republicans, the chapter’s public relations executive Jeorgia Templin told Campus Reform that it is because “at a time like this, law enforcement needs to be supported.”
Attempting to reach a “middle ground,” Markwood suggested that the shirts could just be sold to members of the College Republicans chapter.
Markwood told Campus Reform that the solution is "better than nothing."
“However, it shouldn't have been a win in the first place. Because it should be something that is okay to sell on campus,” she added.
A decision was not reached during the meeting, but Markwood says she was asked to attend another meeting the following day to answer some more of Bradshaw’s questions.
Markwood told Campus Reform that Bradshaw informed her that she spoke with the Board of Trustees because the “article got so big.”
Markwood explained that the Board of Trustees approved her ask to be able to sell the shirts to members, because it was viewed a “great compromise to minimize student concerns and minimize the concerns of safety on campus, but also allow [the chapter] to sell the shirts.”
“She wanted me to also see if I could offer a discussion after we sell the shirts if there's a lot of concerns,” Markwood said.
To which she agreed and said she would focus on explaining the difference between “Back the Blue” and “Blue Lives Matter.”
Templin told Campus Reform that the agreement is “as fair as we can get.”
“The apparel should not have been an issue in the first place. Saying the 'Thin Blue Line' is offensive or controversial makes this topic more controversial,” she said.
When asked if she foresees that the shirts will be an issue on campus, Templin told Campus Reform that she does not believe they will be.
“I truly can't see these shirts being an issue on campus,” she said.
Editor's Note: After publication, Makwood submitted the following statement to Campus Reform: "I just found out that the board of trustees weren’t the exact people that approved the shirts. It was the Vice President of Student Affairs, Vice President of University Advancement, Vice President for Financial Affairs and Director of McIntosh Center combined."
ONU did not respond to Campus Reform’s request for comment.