The Cal Poly College Republicans debuted their annual Free Speech Wall on Dexter Lawn this Thursday. The wall’s purpose is “to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall and to recognize the freedoms granted to us by this great nation,” according to a statement posted on the Cal Poly Republican’s Facebook page.
At first, the wall was overwhelmingly filled with positive messages, which was a goal of the Cal Poly Republicans Club, club president Katherine Rueckert said.
Video by Allison Royal
“That’s why we encourage people to write this year especially positive things on the wall so we get the positive message of unity and inclusivity across,” Rueckert, a civil engineering junior, said.
Students thronged to the wall to write inspiring, uplifting statements like “you are enough” and “love will conquer hate.”
“This year, looking at it right now, I just see a ton of positivity and a lot of wanting to trump hate with love,” psychology junior Allison Newlee said.
By Friday morning, however, the wall was yet again scribbled with transphobic, anti-Islamic, racist and sexist slurs —the same kinds of messages that spurred campus-wide outrage and the formation of SLO Solidarity last year.
President Armstrong released a statement via email on Friday morning regarding the insensitive comments.
“While it is the role of our university to provide an open forum for all forms of thought and expression, I want to be very clear that these comments do not reflect the values of Cal Poly. We do not support hate and bigotry at our university,” the email said.
“I understand that people feel passionate about their perspectives and their views of the world, and I have a lot of respect for that,” Jean DeCosta, interim executive director of the Office of University Diversity & Inclusivity, said. “But it is always painful to see when we write things that can be very hurtful or lead people feeling unwelcome on our campus.”
A gathering to support community and social justice is scheduled to take place on Dexter Lawn Friday night at 6 p.m.