Last week, the University of Minnesota’s undergraduate student government voted down a resolution to hold an annual “moment of recognition” on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, citing concerns that it might inflame anti-Muslim sentiment.
Now the group is facing a backlash on social media, particularly in the wake of Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris.
The resolution, which was proposed by Theo Menon, a representative from the College Republicans, noted that “there is currently no official recognition” of 9/11 on the Twin Cities campus and urged the U to start such a tradition next year.
After a debate Nov. 10, the Minnesota Student Association rejected the resolution 36 to 23, with three abstentions.
According to an account of the debate in a conservative student newspaper, the Minnesota Republic, opponents argued that such a resolution could stir up racism against Muslim and Middle Eastern students. The story was later picked up by a Washington Post blog.
The response, on the student association’s Facebook site, was swift.
“Are we allowed to publicly, on campus, mourn for Paris or would that be too offensive to some?” wrote one commenter.
“Absolutely despicable,” wrote another. “You should be ashamed of yourselves.”
On Friday, the association released a statement, saying: “Much of the coverage of this resolution has revolved around the discussion of the potential perpetuation of Islamophobia. While this was certainly a valid and unanswered concern of the body, much of the discussion … on this resolution also revolved around logistics of how a moment of recognition could be implemented.”
It went on to say that many members “voiced support for holding a moment of recognition for the victims of 9/11,” but faulted the resolution for not spelling out how “this could be done.” It said the group had “reached out to the author” to work on redrafting the resolution for a future vote.
Surprised by opposition
Menon, a 17-year-old freshman from Rogers, Minn., who sponsored the resolution, said the opposition took him by surprise. “I did not believe that this would be at all a point of contention,” he said.
He said there was no mention at the meeting of bringing the issue up for another vote. “They did not table it; they voted it down,” he said. “Only after this … backlash from the public did they release this statement saying it was going to be reconsidered.”
Leaders of the student association declined a request for an interview.
But the U, which said it supported the resolution, released a statement responding to what was described as “a great deal of confusion” about the vote.
“Following the vote, the students decided to take a step back and ensure that any 9/11 resolution that is passed includes the detail necessary to successfully implement a worthy form of recognition on campus,” said the statement from Vice Provost Danita Brown Young. “The maturity to want a more comprehensive resolution should be applauded.”
Menon said that he’s rewriting the resolution and that he plans to submit it for a vote at the next meeting, on Nov. 24. This time, he said, he believes it will pass.