To commemorate the Fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, the College Republicans at California Polytechnic San Luis Obispo annually erect a wall, encouraging students to remember the struggle for freedom that millions faced living under communism behind the Iron Curtain.
Students are invited to write on the wall to express free speech, and at the end of the week, the wall is torn down by Cal Poly College Republicans to symbolize the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the victory of freedom over communism.
However, unlike previous years, this year the Free Speech Wall was met with condemnation from the President of the university, Jeffrey Armstrong, in an email sent to the entirety of Cal Poly’s student body and faculty due to offensive words some students had written on it. These included “Black Lies Matter,” as well as a number of leftist slogans, including “f**k the patriarchy.”
“I want to be very clear that these comments do not reflect the values of Cal Poly. We do not support hate and bigotry at our university,” the email reads.
Despite affirming that free speech is a right that the university honors, Armstrong encourages students not to write offensive messages on the wall so as to consider the perspectives of others and the impact that words can have on individuals. “[The messages] may be much more hurtful and destructive than you realize,” says Armstrong. “Micro aggressions, 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.”
In the days immediately following this email being sent, the Free Speech Wall was vandalized, spray painted with obscenities, and damaged on three separate occasions. “Inevitably, there are things written on the wall with the intent to get a reaction out of people, and not a positive one,” says Katherine Rueckert, the President of the Cal Poly College Republicans.
“However, those who took offense and chose to tear down the wall on three separate occasions missed the entire point of its existence. Freedom of Speech is not there to protect the popular views, it exists to protect the unpopular. There were many wonderful things written on the Free Speech Wall and it is a shame that the handful of controversial comments had to insight such adverse behaviors. But we cannot control how others react, all we can do is choose to get better instead of bitter.”
Vandals took apart, broke and tore down the Free Speech Wall, spray painted a swastika on the sidewalk by it and spray painted messages such as “Fuck Alt Right”, “Trump Is A Racist”, “Smash Racism, Fuck You Jeff” in reference to the university President, and even “Fuck Nazi Sysmpathy” in a failed attempt at correct spelling.
Each time the wall was taken apart or taken down, the Cal Poly College Republicans repaired and reassembled it. Despite the obscenity, vandalism and intolerance towards the wall from students on campus, there was no email sent out by university President Jeffrey Armstrong condemning or even mentioning these incidents.
“The controversial statements on the wall that individuals took offense to were addressed by the campus administration in an email sent out to all students at Cal Poly,” Rueckert points out. “When asked if they would release a statement regarding the vandalism to our wall and to school property, they remained silent. It is their silence that speaks volumes. The question remains, is Cal Poly a campus that promotes Freedom of Speech and inclusiveness, or one that condones censorship in the face of adversity?”
Instead of being discouraged, the College Republicans report that they are instead using this incident to give them momentum and claim that many students on campus belonging to a silent majority have expressed support for the group and their intentions.
“The Cal Poly College Republicans will continue to be champions of free speech at Cal Poly and promote an environment that allows everyone to exercise the rights and freedoms granted by this great nation we call home,” the group said in a statement on their Facebook page.
Breitbart Tech reached out to the school for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.