University of Toledo President Sharon Gaber sent an email to students Wednesday afternoon addressing a banner displayed in the Thompson Student Union depicting President Trump wearing a white Klansman hood.
A photo of the banner was posted on social media, with some students expressing their displeasure with the university allowing it to hang for so long.
“I have been asked why we didn’t remove the banner and why we let it go up in the first place,” Ms. Gaber said. “The reason is that the University of Toledo respects the First Amendment rights of our students, faculty, and staff. While we may not always agree with the way individuals or organizations choose to express their views, we must respect their freedom to do so.”
UT’s vice president of student affairs, Phillip Cockrell, said the university was aware of the banner before it was displayed. The banner was reviewed by the division of student affairs before being suspended in the union on Tuesday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., Mr. Cockrell said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the sign was removed, but it is unclear when it was taken down. A university spokesman said the university was not the one to remove it.
Mr. Cockrell said UT reviews all banners before hanging them to make sure they don’t incite violence or harm to others.
Shane Logan, president of the UT College Republicans, said he found the banner “very hurtful.”
“Free speech is not hate speech,” he said.
University of Toledo student Connor Kelley wrote on social media that campus should be an inclusive place, which is why the banner went up.
“This banner went up to address real issues of systemic racism,” he said on Twitter on Wednesday.
Yesterday we hung up this banner in the Student Union. That apparently warranted a condescending email sent out to the entire student body. Campus should be an inclusive place, which is why the banner went up. This banner went up to address real issues of systemic racism. pic.twitter.com/G3OG2WKQLT— Connor M. Kelley (@ConnorKelley__) March 21, 2018
In response to the divisive banner, UT has scheduled a town hall meeting Thursday at 4 p.m. in the student union to allow students to “discuss free speech rights and the University’s role in maintaining and protecting those rights.”
Despite being disappointed in the banner, Mr. Logan said he believes some positive could come from this situation.
“The good thing from all of this is that it does open dialogue,” he said.
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