College Republicans at the University of Minnesota have endured broad condemnation after placing a mural on a campus bridge. The painting, which was one of many from campus organizations, depicted the campaign logo of Donald Trump alongside text reading, “Build the wall.” It didn’t take long for an anonymous critic to express unending tolerance by vandalizing the mural. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
… the previous work is almost entirely obscured by “Stop White Supremacy” [spray-painted] in large gold letters.
Some students denounced the pro-Trump panels as hate speech, saying it targeted minorities and immigrants. That sentiment sparked a rally on the bridge Saturday, where signs plastered the wall with messages of love and images of Gandhi. A fraternity amended their adjacent panel to include “build bridges not walls.”
But university President Eric Kaler, while acknowledging that some found the message offensive, condemned the graffiti and reminded students that Trump’s message was protected speech.
“The University of Minnesota supports a campus climate that welcomes all members of our community and our values of equity and diversity,” he said in a statement to students and faculty members, “but that also ensures the free flow of ideas, even those that are offensive to some.”
He added that “while the University values free speech, the subsequent vandalism of the panel is not the way to advance a conversation.”
Kaler’s response stands as a rare affirmation of individual rights in a university culture which has grown increasingly hostile toward differing points of view.