It’s election time; be careful who you acknowledge.
That seems to be a lesson recently learned the hard way at Bates College.
As later expressed by the school newspaper, this was the intent:
On Oct. 23, the Bates Communications Office posted a slideshow featuring eleven students who were voting in their first presidential election. They planned to post a profile of one student a day leading up to the election on the Bates College Instagram.
Not everyone was impressed.
Hence, comments of condemnation came.
And, as reported by The College Fix, that led to an even bigger mess:
The number of comments and criticism led the school to disable commenting. The students who wanted the post removed then accused the university of violating their free speech rights. The school then enabled comments again but deleted the photo after promising to do so at the protest.
Fast forward to hundreds of students holding a rally in protest.
The school’s president appeared at the assembly and — wait for it — apologized.
Head honcho Clayton Spencer lamented the “added harm, fear, and feelings of unsafety inflicted on the Bates community.”
He spoke to the callousness of it all:
“It was incredibly insensitive of me to speak out about the election without taking that into account.”
The Bates Student pointed out that the featured right-winger was the first profiled person with political affiliation:
The post profiling the president of Bates College Republicans was only the third of the profiles to be posted, and at that point, it was the only post that referenced a student organization affiliated with a political party.”
However, in the broader scheme, he was ideologically outnumbered.
Eleven students were set to be profiled, the outlet reported, and all but one of them were from neutral or left-leaning student organizations, yet students didn’t let the series continue once they saw the College Republican.
School spokesman Sean Findlen said the removal of the photo wasn’t enough:
“To be clear, that’s not where it should stop…I need to do more work, my colleagues need to do more work.”
But student organizers haven’t been satiated.
They’ve demanded a series of changes, which the paper lists thusly:
- An apology from the Bates administration regarding the silencing of students and restriction of free speech.
- Deletion of the Instagram post.
- A direct stance against racism with a commitment to anti-racism work.
- Commitment from all affiliated Bates student organizations to anti-racism work.
- A requirement for all Bates students to take a course in critical race theory
As relayed by the campus outlet, students at the protest laid out how free speech works:
After an introduction by [student government co-presidents Perla Figuereo and Lebanos Mengistu], Student Government Representative, Rishi Madnani, 23, was the first to speak. “Free speech does not mean you can protect hate speech,” Madnani said, referencing President Spencer’s response posted on Instagram. Madnani further explained that just because a person can lawfully say what they choose does not mean others cannot criticize.
A white sheet lay on the steps of Corum painted with the phrase “Bates Will Not Silence Us”—a theme carried throughout the protest. Students stepped up to add their handprint during the protest.
Watch the power being fought below:
All of this, perhaps, leads to a compelling question: What are they teaching on college campuses?
One thing’s for sure: It isn’t “live and let live.”
Stay tuned for more. And I mean that, regarding the rest of your life.
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