Dozens of St. Cloud State University students crowded around a brightly lit display case on the second-floor of Atwood, late Wednesday afternoon. To some students, what laid behind the glass was an act of free speech – to others, it was hate speech.
The SCSU College Republicans organization had white boxes out on their table at Sidestreet, welcoming their members to draw political expressions on them, stating they would be displayed later on in Atwood.
“This is to promote our organization, not the exact opinions of our members,” Vice President, Carson Grand said. “We don’t necessarily agree with all of the opinions.”
Many of the boxes show opposition to the LGBTQ community and immigration, including phrases such as “LGBT – Liberty Guns Brews Trump,” “Marriage is between a man and a woman! Support traditional marriage!” and “Legal Immigrants Welcome!” with more than one box including the words, “Trump Train,” and a Confederate flag peeking out in the corner of the case.
A post was shared with a photo of the display on the SCSU College Republicans Facebook Page around noon, with the sentence, “The wall has finally been built and is on display in the 2nd floor of Atwood Memorial Center, by the ballroom.”
“To be honest, it’s a mockery,” SCSU graduate student, Constance Essien said. “For the fact that this is able to pass Atwood, and be framed even – it’s against diversity. It’s egocentrism at it’s finest.”
Dozens of other students crammed in the hallway in front of the case, condemning the remarks drawn on the boxes, and vocally stating that St. Cloud State University promotes diversity and LGBTQ inclusivity and that they now feel disrespected.
“Students of color and the LGBTQ community – they find this place as a refuge. SCSU feels like hatred now, they are not showing diversity.” Essien said.
“They allow stuff like this?” President of the Oromo Student Organization (OSO), Cheltu Hassan said. “I thought this school promoted diversity.”
Multiple people against the display confronted their views with Eugene Schreder, who was not outright against the SCSU College Republicans display.
“On all levels it’s an insult,” graduate student, Kenneth Watson said as he began to raise his voice at Schreder about white privilege and what it means to have grown up in American society as a white male.
After a few minutes of loud verbal disagreements, Schreder walked away. “I want people to say whatever they want. Your freedom to wave your fist stops when it hits my nose,” he said.
Many students came after they received Snapchats sent to them from friends, in disbelief that the university would allow this sort of speech on campus. Students said that SCPD and Public Safety briefly stopped by the area in Atwood, but were not needed to intervene in any arguments.
“This is to a point that it went too far,” SCSU student, Brendan Potter said.
“I’m first-generation in the U.S., my family came over from the Philippines,” Potter said. “Anything I’ve done, I’ve worked for. It’s really upsetting.”
Potter and others mentioned they do have respect for other political parties besides their own, including Republicans. And they were in agreement with one another that some of the signs were respectful.
“They have some good signs, like “Support Our Troops”,” Potter said.
Overall, they would have liked to see an advisor holding back publicly displaying the signs in which spread hate against others on campus and in the community.
As of late Wednesday night, over 50 comments were posted on the SCSU College Republican’s Facebook post, with many condemning the display and saying there are ways to have a respectful dialogue about differences in beliefs and political views, without being offensive.
A member of the St. Cloud community, Tricia Rose Johnson commented on the Facebook post stating, “I will be emailing the president of the school, Dave Kleis, the MN GOP, and anyone else I can find who should be notified of the disrespect and hatefulness you are so freely dishing out on behalf of the city of Saint Cloud.”
According to Atwood staff, they are not allowed to say “no” to organizations asking to display artwork or pieces from their SCSU groups.
The University Chronicle did not hear back from SCSU administration on the matter before this article was published. *Will update as new information is brought to our attention.*