Clemson students demand university ‘prosecute defamatory speech’ on campus, social media

A group of Clemson students are demanding that the university "prosecute defamatory speech" to help correct a "pattern of social injustice" at the school.

As part of an on-campus campaign known as See the Stripes, “underrepresented” groups have created a list of grievances and demands following a Clemson fraternity’s “ Crip-mas” themed party in December.

“[W]e want a public commitment from the Clemson University Administration to prosecute criminally predatory behaviors and defamatory speech committed by members of the Clemson University community (including, but not limited to, those facilitated by usage of social media),” the demand from the group states.

“The First Amendment unconditionally protects freedom of speech,” said William Turton, chairman of Clemson’s Young Americans for Freedom, told Campus Reform. “This fundamental American value is non-negotiable. All speech, even speech that is considered offensive and hateful, is protected. I may disagree with such speech, but it should not be silenced.”

See the Stripes is also calling on the university to rename buildings that are “offensively named.” Specifically, protesters point to Tillman Hall, named after Benjamin Ryan Tillman, who led the Red Shirts in South Carolina’s 1876 election. The Red Shirts sought to reduce the black vote in the state election.

“The main takeaway here is that I feel terrible if the minorities at Clemson feel undermined or disrespected in the shadow of Tillman as they cross campus every day, but it wasn’t named Tillman Hall because we’re proud he was racist,” Nick Jewell, a Clemson alumnus, told Campus Reform. “It was named Tillman Hall simply because he got there first and donated a ton of money to the advancement of kids’ futures here at Clemson. We don’t stand beside everything he believed in by any means. And because of that, the name Tillman means nothing more to the majority than bells, bowman, and cherished memories with friends.”

Jewell, who graduated in 2013 with a degree in psychology, said that as a “white, average male,” he couldn’t fully understand the plights of minorities at Clemson, but said that he hopes these discussions can be resolved without having to change the name of the building.

Earlier this week, Clemson’s Faculty Senate tabled a resolution that would rename the iconic building.

Winthrop University, a sister school to Clemson, is also under pressure to rename its Tillman Hall, the main building on the Rock Hill, S.C., campus.

However, the See the Stripes also demands that Clemson increase funding for organizations that represent minorities and construct a multi-cultural center as a “safe space” for underrepresented groups. Additional demands include incentivized diversity training for faculty and administrators and greater minority representation in the faculty and administration.

For its part, Clemson officials say they are taking the students’ complaints seriously and plan to respond to the list of grievances before the next meeting of the school’s trustees.

The See the Stripes campaign’s mission contends that the school’s mascot—a tiger—and the athletic program’s slogan—Solid Orange—fail to properly encompass the history of minorities at the school.

See the Stripes did not respond to a request for comment from Campus Reform for this article.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @GMillerThompson