Fliers posted around the campus of the University of Minnesota, Morris mocking feminists and rape victims led to multiple rebukes and got the attention Friday of new U President Joan Gabel.
The header on the fliers found last week reads “UMM College Republicans,” then lists the group’s weekly meeting time and location with the words, “Never be afraid of being right.”
Beneath that are pictured three half-full glasses. The first reads “Optimist” and “The glass is half full”; the second, “Pessimist” and “The glass is half empty”; and the third, “Feminist” and “The glass is being raped.”
Tayler Lehmann, president of the College Republicans on the Morris campus and a senior from Mankato, said the group had nothing to do with the “inflammatory” fliers and that he had no idea who posted them.
But they got the attention of U administrators, including Gabel and Morris Chancellor Michelle Behr. Both commented on the school’s social media sites shortly after the posters became a topic, though neither specifically mentioned the fliers.
“As an institution of learning and discovery, where our work often builds new understanding, it is imperative that we provide a place for diverse views and opinions,” Gabel wrote in a statement posted Friday.
“Not only does the U.S. Constitution require us to do so, but it is our tradition. It is a part of who we are.”
Behr posted a note on social media Thursday that was addressed to students and colleagues, saying she had “heard” their concerns “regarding language and images being used on our campus that inflame and divide.”
In a statement Friday, Lehmann said that Campus Republicans didn’t condone “the content of the poster.” But he added that free speech was “being attacked” on campus, and that “those who hold conservative religious beliefs are seen to be ‘inciting violence.’ ”
The Morris College Republicans, Lehmann said, will “continue to take a lead role in supporting the freedom of speech on campus and fight against gender hysteria and oversensitive triggers that shut down discussion and critical analysis of opposing viewpoints.” He challenged U administrators to reassure conservative students that they “will never be forced to use fake and made-up pronouns, as the leftists mobs demand.”
Peter Truckenmiller of Minneapolis, a student in his third year at Morris, didn’t buy the GOP denials. He pointed to a previous flier with the same header and the words “Never be afraid of being right even when it comes to the only two genders,” and said the College Republicans had targeted students’ identities in the past.
Protecting free speech has never been easy, Gabel wrote, adding that some views are hurtful and can lead to a sense of “isolation and marginalization.”
She pledged to continue to work with “individuals and communities” to provide “the support they need to feel safe, welcome, and respected on our campuses.” While the U honors discourse, she wrote, it does not always support what is said.
“I want to be clear that the University condemns speech that promotes prejudice and discrimination,” she wrote.
Behr said leaders at the Morris campus take “building an inclusive and respectful campus seriously,” and noted a group was working on a campus climate evaluation plan.