By Maya Douglas, Mary Milligan & Christie Wisniewski
This story will continue to be updated as we get more quotes and information.
The display case on the second floor of Whitaker has been changed from Protesting Peeps to a showcase of quotes from celebrities voicing some beliefs of the Hood College Republicans.
This display was constructed by HCR club’s Vice President Brice McAndrew and Treasurer Brendan Mahoney.
They came up with the idea after seeing previous displays about transgender and pro-choice awareness put up by Hood College’s LGBT club and Feminist Student Union, according to McAndrew.
“We think it’s only fair for the other side to to have a chance to be represented,” he said.
However, to many, this display is being seen as hateful, transphobic, and misogynistic. Many students are quick to point out that Hood should not be condoning this kind of rhetoric and that it should be taken down.
“I would like to say that Hood College is a place of inclusion, community, and fostering acceptance and harmony among students,” said senior Jennifer Forester. “It is not a place for hateful inflammatory rhetoric to be spewed, which will only further divide us against each other.”
Students are quick to ensure that they want to promote free speech but not hate speech. Senior Molly Masterson said, “We support discussion and disagreeing opinions. What we don’t support and why we are upset with the display is hate speech. The rhetoric the Republicans used regarding trans rights and abortion was hateful, discriminatory and ignorant. It has nothing to do with the fact we don’t like opposing opinions. We don’t like discrimination.”
On The Blue and Grey’s Facebook post, Jeff Robert seemed to disagree with this above sentiment. Robert wrote: “Freedom of speech. If people find it offensive, they have the option of moving on. If its offensive, it creates discourse which is a good thing. I haven’t seen it myself, as I haven’t had the need so far this semester to be on campus, but I find it to be informative.”
Others were quick to point fingers, like alumnae Caitlin Clark who wrote, “Seems like @Christopher Gardner has some personal issues he needs to work through. Sad!”
Christopher Gardner is the president of the group responsible for putting up the poster.
Senior and staff writer CJ Blickenstaff wrote: ” There is an abundance of free speech throughout the halls of Hood College; Art, Religion, Literature… Politics. Whether you agree with it or not, censorship is not the answer. If we all censored what we didn’t agree with then no opportunity for communication and dialogue would exist. Without those opportunities no one ever learns and hot topics such as those imposed on the board never come to the center. Censorship is divisive. Rejection of opposing ideals is divisive. Let’s find common ground. I do not discuss politics at school because someone is always offended; some sit silently…others shout their discourse. Let’s accept each other’s points of view as valid. We don’t have to agree; just see the other point as legitimate and respect it.”
Staff and students’ opinions
Travis Eichelberger, the assistant director of student engagement and coordinator of diversity and inclusion, said that the Hood College Republicans approached him for the space, but didn’t specify the content. According to Eichelberger, the club claimed that they wanted a space to display some conservative hot topics and current discussions.
The next morning, he said, he walked out of his office and saw the current poster.
Views from students, faculty, and alum all seem to be mixed. Some dislike the material, but are quick to stress the importance of the First Amendment. Others believe that the speech is hate speech, and some others believe that all opinions have a place, even if these opinions aren’t popular.
“Everything that gets put up you don’t have to agree with,” said Hood Professor Timothy Jacobsen. “[People] have a right to disagree with you. That’s fine. Free speech protects all speech, whether you like it or not. I think it’s a great opportunity for discussion. I will say putting up something like this and saying that it’s to start a discussion… it’s kind of a cop-out.”
He continued to say that as long as the content is respectful and not derogatory, and as long as it’s not “filled with venom”, people have to respect it.
“You don’t have to agree with it,” Jacobsen said. “People have a right to speak their mind. It doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences. It doesn’t mean by putting this up, there aren’t going to be some sort of consequences.”
Senior, Gabrielle Cavalier, was present during the creation of the display.
“I just thought of it as joke…” she said. “I didn’t think it would blow up to what it is right now.”
Free speech or hate speech?
Cavalier, a member of the Hood College Democrat club*, believes the language on the board is “definitely inflammatory.”
On Wednesday night, President Andrea Chapdelaine issued an email statement to the Hood community stating that discussions are being held with students, administrators and faculty to “come to a resolution that is most consistent with the values of our institution.”
Action is being taken, according to the email.
The Hood College Republican Club issued a statement on their Facebook page last night stating the following:
“There has been some members of the Hood Community who have expressed their outrage towards the display. We encourage all of those who have questions or disagree with us to approach us on campus or come to our general meeting in Whitaker Commons at 7:30 on Sunday. The intent of this display was to help encourage constructive political discourse on campus. We have been fortunate enough to have many great conversations with people of different backgrounds and ideologies the past couple days. Conversations with people who may have never voiced their political opinions on campus before. This unprecedented level of discourse wouldn’t have occurred without the presence of the display, which we still believe holds value.”
“I think it deserves all of the outcry that it’s getting right now but I will fight forever for the right to be able to express your view point,” said Cavalier.
“This is the messy side of politics. Things like this have to happen to start discussion. This campus has always been divided and this just highlighted it,” said McAndrew.
The Hood College Republican Club president has had approximately $200 donated to Planned Parenthood in his name, according to The Frederick Extra.
The Hood College Democrat Club will not be doing a board in response to the Republican display. According to Cavalier, members of both clubs are cordial and collaborate often.
“There isn’t any tension between us,” said Cavalier.”[We] don’t want this to get any bigger than it is…it isn’t tit for tat.”
In a second email statement from President Chapdelaine, she stated that the administrative team gave the HCR a chance to remove the display voluntarily, however, the club refused to do so.
“They have the power to take it down if they want to, but we won’t do it,” said McAndrew in response to the request.
“I have requested that we follow College procedures to determine if these messages have violated policy, with appropriate sanctions to follow should such a determination be made,” Chapdelaine said in the campus wide email.
If determined by administration, the board may have violated Policy 55 of Hood’s Student Handbook, which protects against bullying, hate speech, and harassment. Some students are comparing this controversy to the vandalized Black Student Union display in 2014, which featured pictures of unarmed victims of police brutality and a Black Lives Matter poster.
“I’ve put up with so much at this school and I just think it’s interesting how nothing this big happened when the same thing was done to the BSU,” said Chanté Moore, a senior majoring in social work.
“Hood picks and chooses what they want to correct,” she said. “It’s frustrating.”
Around 7 p.m. on Thursday, a third of the display was ripped down. The person responsible was caught immediately by campus security and the display has been repaired.
Campus security escorted the person out of the building. The meeting room that allows access to the poster has been locked, and a sign on the door tells people to contact campus security if they want access to this room.
There is no word whether the person was disciplined by security or was just removed.
A chance to speak
The HCR held their regularly scheduled meeting on Sunday April 23 at 7:30 p.m. in Whitaker Campus Commons. They invited all to come for a “constructive discourse.” Over 50 students and faculty were in attendance, and people streamed in and out of the meeting that ended shortly after 9:15 p.m.
Hood College will hold an official community forum on Tuesday April 25 at 9 p.m. in Whitaker Campus Commons. The public is invited to come and listen to the club’s discussion of the poster, as well as ask questions.
*Gabrielle Cavalier’s opinions do not reflect those of the entire Hood College Democrat Club