BY JAZLIN COLEY
Republican campus and community members feel it is harder to express their beliefs this election. However, Democrats on campus haven’t felt the backlash.
From signs being torn to pieces on private properties to controversial debates being addressed in an informal matter on the campus, the notion of whether individuals’ freedom of opinions are being actively respected is a big discussion this political cycle.
Joe Weinrich, a member of the political adjunct group Students for Trump, feels as though the group allows people like him to fully express and support their candidate.
Students for Trump is one of the 80 political adjunct groups across America that supports Trump’s campaign on college campuses and has already encountered this problem head-on.
Drake University has built a system of organizations that assists in the transition of accepting and understanding a diverse community, especially for students who encounter beliefs contradictory to their own.
“Student Inclusion (Involvement and Leadership) is making everyone feel safe whether you are gay, transsexual and any other possible combination. One of those is political beliefs, and I really feel strongly about that,” Weinrich, a junior studying informational statistics and data analytics, said. “When we talk about diversity as a whole — the very core concept of diversity is that we get different, sometimes conflicting opinions. I feel like political beliefs as a student has gotten kind of swept up under the rug.”
On Sept. 13 during Drake’s Activities Fair, Weinrich was involved in an occurrence where the messages spread by his candidate caused another student group to move spots at the fair. The presidential candidate’s racially negative slurs were directed at the group’s ethnic background.
“Drake as an administration has been nothing but great and glad that I am doing something on this campus,” Weinrich said. “I identify this problem as a generational problem, which makes it a hard time arguing your views, especially with each other. Whether they just don’t see it as an issue, or they like that I am a counter-culture. Either way, I think that that is wrong.”
The thin line between having one’s own sense of freedom of speech and accepting other contradicting beliefs is easy to cross.
“As much as they have that right, there is a line, and I believe we saw that line get crossed,” Weinrich said. “I just heard (that), all throughout the 80 chapters we have on campuses, that people felt pressured not to support their candidate and not able to fully express their views.”
A 62-year-old resident and Trump supporter of the Drake neighborhood who wishes to remain anonymous has experienced destruction to her property during this campaign.
She has had campaign signs from her front yard ripped from the ground and torn up.
“The destruction has been pretty intensive and very threatening,” the anonymous source said. “I have gone from eight signs to 14, and every day I find another sign ripped up from the ground and torn. I feel so threatened. I look at the Drake community as our future and our hope with a lot of passion. It scares me to see this passion turn into anger represented by the constant destruction. Everyone in this neighborhood is so hush-hush. I do not see any support for Trump … And I don’t think it’s out of embarrassment—it’s more out of fear.”
Being a resident so close to the university’s campus did not make her excited about supporting her candidate openly.
It reached the point where she soon had to place a poster board that expressed her right as an American to express her opinions.
But not everyone sees this to be an inequality on an individual’s ability to express.
“It’s important to differentiate people disagreeing with what someone’s saying or doing from government blocking speech,” said Jennifer Glover Konfrst, assistant professor of journalism and mass communication.
“Someone stealing a yard sign isn’t an abridgement of free speech. It may be vandalism, and it doesn’t advance our community discourse, but it’s not an abridgement of free speech,” Konfrst said. “The government telling you (that) you can’t have that yard sign or you must have that yard sign — that’s when your speech rights are violated.”
Janina Goncalves, a sophomore majoring in marketing and graphic design, feels as though she does not experience any of the negative political feedback because she is a Democrat.
“My primary beliefs lie within the majority opinion,” Goncalves said. “So I feel as though I do not necessarily see any of the repercussions of supporting Hillary. I also think there is a negative association to Trump’s name. So, whenever you meet a supporter of Trump there’s an automatic stereotype assigned. This gives a sense of reasoning, in my opinion, that allows the mistreatment of that person.”
Students on campus can openly practice free speech in numerous ways, such as wearing a T-shirt or flaunting a political sticker to speak out against injustice.
“Freedom of speech is often thought of in terms of big-picture, sweeping generalizations,” Konfrst said. “In actuality, defending free speech happens every time someone shares an opinion and isn’t arrested for it. It happens every time someone shares their views without government interference. It’s powerful.”
Drake students are obligated to remember that freedom of speech applies to everyone; however, Bulldogs are not exempt from societal consequences, Konfrst said.
For Goncalves, the alternative of regulating students’ speech may lead to underrepresentation and an unteachable attitude on the college campus.
Weinrich feels the best response to hateful speech is a response that leads into a teachable moment and models conversations. Weinrich does not feel that Drake has reached this point.
“At Drake we know what the problem is—we know it’s there,” Weinrich said. “It just hasn’t been addressed and no one wants to touch it.”