The controversy surrounding the College Republicans’ bridge panel is very important to discuss. While many may disagree with the views and opinions portrayed on the bridge panel, the First Amendment protects the speech of the College Republicans so long as it is not integral to illegal conduct, obscene or seen as a threat. Trump’s presidency and the wall are highly controversial topics, and the ideas presented on the bridge panel may make some students or University members feel uncomfortable and threatened. If this were the case, there should have been a University-approved and less destructive way of removing the message.
On the homepage of the University Academic Freedom and Free Speech at the University of Minnesota, former President Kaler claimed, “We are dedicated to promoting free speech while also fostering a campus climate that supports equity, diversity, and inclusion. This includes a diversity of thought and the ability to learn how to disagree with one another with civility.” This would suggest that University students should be able to civilly talk through their disagreements without the need for vandalism or destruction. Certain degrees of vandalism are illegal in the state of Minnesota, therefore vandalism cannot be considered a civil method of displaying disagreement. The vandalism of the bridge does not suggest the University or its community are able to promote diversity or inclusion of all political ideologies.
The Minnesota Daily Article titled "College Republicans bridge painting vandalized for fourth consecutive year claims" “...some Regents shared they believe conservative students feel like they do not belong on a campus in a liberal city.” Therefore, if this is true, it suggests the University policy regarding free speech is not being properly executed if the Republican student group is not able to express their opinion in a safe way without being vandalized.
Alexandra Gast is a student at the University of Minnesota.
This letter to the editor has been lightly edited for style and clarity.