BY KATHERINE BAUER
Several members of Drake College Republicans said they weren’t surprised when something happened to a poster they hung in the Olmsted Breezeway.
“I wasn’t surprised, but I was very disheartened because the initial intention of the activity was to show why students on campus like the reasonings they have for being conservative since Drake doesn’t provide a very open environment to talk about that,” junior law, politics and society major Dana Minteer said.
During its meeting last week, the conservative political group on campus asked members to write their answer to the question, “Why are you conservative?” on a poster.
“Often conservative students are put into boxes of racist, homophobic and everything like that as their reason for being conservative,” Interim-President of College Republicans Kollin Crompton said. “As a club, we talk a lot about how we need to tell people why you believe what you believe rather than just letting them define that for you.”
Crompton said the poster was hung in the Olmsted Breezeway Tuesday morning. By Tuesday night, he was notified that someone had left notes on the poster.
The Drake College Republicans’ poster before and after being hung up. Photo courtesy of College Republicans.
Crompton said he removed the poster so those who had written on it wouldn’t have to see it on their way to class. Later, photos of the poster were posted on the College Republicans’ Facebook page.
The post claimed the posters had been vandalized and that the act was “further proof that Drake’s political climate needs work.” Nearly five dozen comments have since been posted, some in support of the action, some in disapproval and some in between.
Some commenters said someone could have easily thought the poster was meant to be interactive for all students, something College Republicans said was not the intention.
“Everyone said, ‘Well, it’s interactive.’ Well, it’s interactive for conservative students,” Crompton said. “It asked, ‘Why are you conservative?’ If you’re not conservative, you wouldn’t be responding to that question.”
“I don’t think it was appropriate and I don’t see how people got the impression that it was a poster for other people to write on,” Minteer said. “Like, sororities do it all the time for, ‘Oh, why do I want to be in a sorority?’ ‘Why do I want to be in Greek life?’ Well, nobody else writes on that, ‘Well, I think you’re wrong for wanting to be in a sorority. I disagree with that.’ So I think it’s just the political message gets people fired up and they can’t really control themselves.”
Crompton said the intent behind the notes was not to start a dialogue.
“I think the intent was to chastise and make fun of other people’s beliefs, just to make sure we stick inside the boxes they want to put us in as racist, homophobic, don’t care about other people,” he said. “They want us to stay in those boxes and go back to being a club that doesn’t do much.”
Several people have said that if someone wanted to start a dialogue with these notes, they would have left a way to get into contact with them.
“I think that was pretty cowardly,” Minteer said. “I think that makes it that much more insulting, the fact that they think we can’t stand up for our opinions but they don’t want to stand up for theirs and put their name.”
Crompton said this incident reflects experiences conservative students are having every day in classrooms.
“I wish they hadn’t done that because there are students every day in class who don’t speak up because no one will take them seriously or they’re too afraid to because it’s not the cool thing to do,” Crompton said. “It’s just hard for me to see students who come to College Republicans every week who say, ‘I can’t stand my classes because I can’t say anything because no one will listen to me.’”
Crompton said he’s been in touch with Director of Student Engagement, Equity and Inclusion Tony Tyler about the incident. But, he said he wishes administration would do more.
“We want the administration to at least acknowledge that this stuff happens to conservative students,” Crompton said. “They act like nothing ever happens and that professors don’t make comments and that professors don’t shut down students in the classroom … I thought this was finally the chance that there’s no misreading this, but I guess there was.”
Dean of Students Jerry Parker explained in an email that the incident is not being investigated as an act of vandalism, since it does not meet certain criteria.
“Drake University refers to the Iowa criminal code for a definition of criminal mischief (sometimes referred to as vandalism),” Parker said. “Upon investigation by Dean of Students Office and the Department of Public Safety, the comments placed on Drake College Republicans’ poster do not appear to meet the definition of criminal mischief as defined in the Iowa legal code.”
Parker also said that the unviersity didn’t issue a campus-wide email about the incident since the notes were not “hateful speech; derogatory and/or discriminatory speech; or speech that creates a severe and hostile environment.”
“The Dean of Students Office determined the comments constituted political speech that did not violate any portion of the Code of Student Conduct, did not infringe on the rights of any protected classes as defined by the University’s Nondiscrimination Statement,” Parker said.
College Republicans is hosting a town hall on Nov. 28 at 8 p.m. Conservative students are invited to share their concerns and thoughts with Drake President Marty Martin and Provost Sue Mattison.