Cal Poly Republicans accused of 'Nazi sysmpathy'
A display commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall was torn down at California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo and defaced with the words “Fuck Nazi sysmpthathy” [sic].
In addition to dismantling and defacing the free speech wall, the vandals also spray painted a backwards, crossed-out swastika on the sidewalk beneath the wreckage, all of which they apparently perpetrated with the aim of communicating their desire for the school’s president to resign.
Taped to the wall was an email that university President Jeffrey Armstrong sent to Cal Poly students on Friday addressing several controversial messages that had been written on the wall, including an image of Mohammed and statements calling Muslims terrorists, asking people to choose between one gender or another, and referring to the Black Lives Matter movement as “anti-Semitic.” Alongside these messages came others suggesting that prisons be razed and the police be abolished.
The Cal Poly College Republicans Free Speech Wall is no stranger to controversy. Last year, the wall led to the formation of the student activist group SLO Solidarity, which released 41 demands for more diversity and inclusivity of racial and sexual minorities. The Cal Poly College Republicans condemned several of the remarks that were deemed hateful and bigoted.
In response to a request for comment, Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier directed Campus Reform to the email sent by Armstrong.
“For several years we have had an opportunity to participate in a Free Speech Wall erected on Dexter Lawn by one of our student organizations,” the missive begins. “Many individuals express themselves by writing comments or drawing images on the wall. It is an important exercise of our right to free expression.”
Yet Armstrong also asserted that “offensive and hurtful” images do not represent Cal Poly, saying the campus does not support “hate and bigotry.”
“Even though the right to free speech is a fundamental right we honor and hold dear, I urge you to consider the perspectives of others and the full impact of your words and images. They may be much more hurtful and destructive than you realize,” he continued. “Microaggressions, unconscious bias, and offensive comments can cause great pain to others, undermine the climate of our campus, and ultimately degrade the experience we have at Cal Poly.”
Despite his condemnation of the controversial graffiti, there were also two messages taped to the wall calling for Armstrong’s resignation, reminding the campus that 40 percent of Cal Poly’s African-American employees have left in the past 18 months.
“RESIGN,” reads one of the messages. “Your s*** isn’t working. Faculty has voted no confidence in your leadership a**hole.”
The Cal Poly College Republicans condemned the vandalism of its free speech wall, saying the school community now faces the choice between standing up for free speech or backing down in the face of demands for censorship.
"These events speak for themselves,” the club told Campus Reform in a statement. “The question is, are we a campus that promotes free speech and inclusivity, or one that condones censorship in the face of adversity? The choice is up to all of us: every student, faculty, staff member, and administrator at Cal Poly."
Campus Reform also contacted the Queer Students Union, which held a gathering last week around the wall to protest the messages written on it, but did not receive a response in time for publication.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @elias_atienza