By Lydia Glen
On Wednesday, Jan. 17, the offices of the Presidents informed students via email that signs were found in St. Joseph promoting white supremacy, just two days after Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
These signs were clear examples of hate speech, yet one of the challenges in combatting racist attacks, is the protection of all forms of speech through the constitution, including hate speech. St. Joseph police were able to take these signs down, as signs are not allowed to be posted on power poles. Additionally, residents of St. Joseph chose to take down these signs on their own, in order to combat these discriminatory acts. All of the signs found displayed the logo of the “St. Cloud State White Student Union.” Other signs were found near the SCSU campus. However, the connection to St. Joseph is unknown.
In response to these postings, The College of St. Benedict (CSB) and St. John’s University (SJU) presidents, Mary Dana Hinton and Michael Hemesath, chose to make a joint statement to denounce the ideology of these posters and encourage students to join together In community, as well as seek support through on-campus resources.
“My concern is that we do not overreact to these messages and give them more attention and publicity than they deserve,” SJU President Michael Hemesath said via email.Although this issue may not have been the action of CSB/SJU students, it continues to affect people on campus. In the aftermath of this event, these posters may make students reflect on their response to the situation.
“I’d like to think that the incidents would make all students question what roles they have to play in either disrupting and dismantling these kinds of messages or in tacitly or passively endorsing them,” Brandyn Woodard, Director of Intercultural & International
Student Services, said.
Student groups at CSB/SJU are also speaking out about the signs.
“This incident shows an unwillingness to have a conversation. Putting up signs is a way to remain anonymous and demonstrate unwillingness to talk about the issue,” Anahi Ortiz-Acosta, co-chair of the Cultural Affairs Board, said.
The anonymous nature of the signs is also a big part of the issue according to co-chair of the Cultural Affairs Borad, Jaheer Jones.
“The issue shows a level of cowardice as well, because nobody knows exactly who did it. People gain a lot of power when they think they are invisible,” said Jones.
Students struggling with the issue are encouraged to seek help and counseling through the on-campus resources mentioned in the emails sent by the presidents and many of the on-campus clubs.