Two days after a banner showing President Trump wearing a white Klansman hood was displayed in the University of Toledo student union, the university held a town hall meeting to encourage an open dialogue among students.
Dozens lined up at the microphone, making impassioned statements about how they felt about the UT College Democrats displaying the banner.
Alex Seifert, communications director of the UT College Democrats, addresses the crowd during a town hall discussion at The University of Toledo.
Alex Seifert, a member of the UT Democrats, said the organization’s intent in hanging the banner was to address the ”various statements, policies, and endorsements that Donald Trump has made that target communities of color and other minority communities.”
Mr. Seifert added that they were trying to find other people at the university who feel “similarly targeted” by Mr. Trump and bring them to their meetings.
“This was us trying to, in a very public way, find other people who feel threatened and help them have a forum to fight against those sorts of policies.”
Elizabeth Layhew, a 19-year-old UT student, condemned the UT Democrats for characterizing their “white Republican peers who have peacefully existed on campus” as white supremacists.
“Your banner and your individual right to freely speak have spoken for an entire group of people who as a whole do not support this message,” she said.
“By constructing and displaying this banner you have spoken for your fellow Democrats who did not approve of this banner. Not every liberal student at the University of Toledo warrants taking cheap shots like you’ve taken to gain attention to your cause.”
Shane Logan, president of the UT College Republicans, addresses the crowd during a town hall discussion at the University of Toledo on Thursday. The town hall was called in response to a banner being displayed in the student union depicting President Trump wearing a Klansman's hood.
Phillip Cockrell, UT’s vice president of student affairs, said the university was aware of the banner and reviewed it before it was displayed in the student union on Tuesday.
The banner was taken down Wednesday.
Students on both sides expressed their opinions throughout the meeting, often drawing roaring applause from the audience. The meeting was scheduled to last one hour, but it was extended to allow a handful of students who were already lined up at the microphone to speak.
When Jared Duke, a 20-year-old UT student, stepped to the microphone, he thanked the UT Democrats for putting up the banner and giving minorities a voice.
“Thank you for saying something that we time and time again have always said this is how we feel,” he said. “This is how our President treats us.”
Shane Logan, president of the College Republicans, said he took offense to the underlying message of the banner.
“What that banner is particularly saying is that people of a different viewpoint and ideology are racist,” he said. “And that is wrong. You can't claim to be inclusive but assassinate the character of people you disagree with. It doesn't do anything to advance the discussion."
UT President Sharon Gaber said the university plans to host more public discussions in the future.
“It’s important to be able to talk and listen to different perspectives,” she said.
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