Duly Noted, Opinion

Protection from uncomfortable ideas not part of package

OMonday, an anonymous group of students delivered a letter to President Julio Frenk in response to a Trump demonstration that happened outside of Richter Library last Thursday, in which demonstrators held up signs promoting Trump campaign slogans such as “Build a Wall.” The letter, as submitted, asked for the university to protect “the physical and emotional well-being of students of color.”

The letter asks the university to criticize the demonstration’s use of “racially coded and exclusionist” messages, appealing to the idea that minority and immigrant students should not be forced to be in an environment that “condones hostility” toward them.

But is the university really obligated to shut down the demonstration to create a safe space for students?

The idea that we should judge words and ideas based on their “coded” meanings is an extremely slippery slope. Let’s examine the incident at face value. The demonstration involved a group of students, some of our own peers, vocalizing their support for a political candidate and the Mexican border wall. Nowhere was there explicit or derogatory language, and as far as what has been reported, none of the demonstrators were violent or disrespectful to passersby.

What made students uncomfortable about the slogans were the unspoken associated ideas, not the words themselves. And of course, there are larger, more malicious implications behind the idea of building a wall.

But to silence speech based on the unspoken “coded” ideas is to act on assumption, not concrete danger. The letter asks us to assume that the demonstrators were advocating for the racist or sexist ideas associated with the Trump campaign, despite the fact that nothing in their demonstration did.

As someone who has vocally criticized Trump before, I understand the principle that protects my right to protest Trump is the same principle that protects these demonstrations. If we want to encourage a variety of ideas, the threshold for language that can be called “threatening” must be high.

It is not the university’s duty to shelter the emotional well-being of students. While keeping us out of real harm, the school also has a duty to prepare us for the complicated, diverse world ahead – diverse not only in terms of skin color, but also in terms of ideas. Not everyone is going to share our values and sensitivities. There will be ideas out there that make us uncomfortable and angry, but we cannot ask the university to punish or denounce them.

Jackie Yang is a sophomore majoring in English and neuroscience. Duly Noted runs the first Thursday of each month.

Feature photo courtesy Flickr user Michael Vadon.

April 6, 2016

Reporters

Jackie Yang

Jackie Yang can be reached via email at jyang@themiamihurricane.com.


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

University of Miami running back Mark Walton was rolling — until he got rolled on, or stepped on. Wa ...

University of Miami safety Sheldrick Redwine got to wear the gaudy (but beautiful to Canes and their ...

This just in: University of Miami at Florida State will kick off in Tallahassee at 3:30 p.m. on Oct. ...

For those concerned about the apparent on-field struggles of graduate transfer Dee Delaney, an All-A ...

This week’s Top 25 college-affiliated football polls, released Sunday afternoon, agreed on how to ta ...

UM undergraduate students resumed classes Monday, some ready, some not, but everyone glad to be back ...

The bold vision for advancing health care education and practice manifests itself this Thursday, Sep ...

UM students fan out across South Florida to help local neighborhoods rebound from the impacts of Hur ...

Classes resume on the Coral Gables campus after the removal of 4 million pounds of landscape debris. ...

Students living in residential housing are returning to campus and classes with renewed resolve. ...

University of Miami women's golfer Dewi Weber wasted little time this season in adding to her a ...

The University of Miami's football game at Florida State on Oct. 7 will kick off at 3:30 p.m. E ...

Walton rushes for career-high 204 yards and Rosier has four touchdowns in Miami's comeback vict ...

The University of Miami volleyball team outlasted Virginia, 3-2, in Atlantic Coast Conference action ...

Junior golfer Dewi Weber highlighted second round action for the University of Miami women's go ...

TMH Twitter Feed
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.