Skidmore College is a liberal arts college in Saratoga Springs, New York. A couple of incidents prompted an investigation by the school’s “Bias Response Group” – a 7-member panel of students and faculty who deal with incidents related to offensive speech or actions. According to the school’s website, the Bias Response Group has two responsibilities:
First, they constitute the College’s first-response team in dealing with reported bias incidents.
Second, working with other appropriate individuals, offices, and organizations, they will play an educational role in helping to foster a climate of openness and inclusion on the Skidmore campus, a climate that is intolerant of harassment or discrimination directed against any member of the Skidmore community.
The offensive “bias incidents” in question involved someone writing Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” on a couple of classroom whiteboards.
While the Bias Response Group acknowledged that political speech is protected, they thought this was an exception, because Donald Trump has made many “anti-immigrant” comments, and his campaign is associated with racism and “bigoted views.”
Moreover, the teachers whose whiteboards were deviled by the offensive slogan were both minorities, one of whom has “immigrant parentage.”
The Bias Response Group’s year-end report concluded regarding these incidents:
“…[T]hese seemingly connected reports suggest a pattern of using the idea of political speech to target specific members of the Skidmore community with biased messaging. As such, the [group] does not interpret these messages as political speech but as racialized, targeted attacks.”
In April, after the so-called “Chalkening” kicked into high gear nationwide, “multiple faculty door whiteboards” at Skidmore were hit with “Make America Great Again” messages, the report states.
This time, a “majority of BRG members do not interpret these messages as political speech but as politicized, racialized, targeted attacks intended to intimidate,” the report adds, indicating some on the group may have dissented.
It wasn’t immediately apparent whether there would be free counseling offered to those who may have been traumatized by the hate speech left inscribed on the dry-erase boards.
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