President Eric W. Kaler of the University of Minnesota took a stand for free speech after several community members demanded that student Trump supporters be prevented from expressing themselves on a new campus art installation.
A university activity which involved students painting a panel on the Washington Avenue Bridge quickly caused controversy after several students proposed adding a pro-Trump slogan. The proposed panel was to include contributions from several different student groups.
After backlash from the community, President Eric W. Kaler reaffirmed the school’s commitment to freedom of expression in an email in which he insisted that the University of Minnesota “supports a campus climate that welcomes all members of our community and our values of equity and diversity, but that also ensures the free flow of ideas, even those that are offensive to some.”
You can read the entirety of the email from President Kaler below:
Dear Twin Cities campus community,
During the annual “Paint the Bridge” event, an opportunity for registered student groups and University departments to promote their groups by painting a panel on the Washington Avenue Bridge, one panel assigned to a student group has received attention. The panel includes the phrase from Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, “Build the wall.” While this is protected as free, political speech, we have heard from members of our community who find the phrase hurtful, offensive, anti-immigrant, and anti-Latinx.
People in our community may disagree with the sentiment expressed. However, while the University values free speech, the subsequent vandalism of the panel is not the way to advance a conversation.
The University of Minnesota supports a campus climate that welcomes all members of our community and our values of equity and diversity, but that also ensures the free flow of ideas, even those that are offensive to some. As students and our community participate in responses to this and future issues, I urge all of us to be respectful and thoughtful in our approach. We encourage all who find some protected speech distasteful or offensive to engage in more protected speech.
Eric W. Kaler
Tom Ciccotta is a libertarian who writes about Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity for Breitbart. You can follow him on Twitter @tciccotta or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org