BGSU responds to instances of hate speech

The administration at Bowling Green State University has released a statement to the community in response to five instances of white supremacist and anti-gay postings on campus as well as an anti-gay demonstration by several members of an outside group.

“These viewpoints do not represent our core values of fostering diversity and a culture of inclusion.,” the messge signed by President Mary Ellen Mazey, Provost Rodney Rogers, and Vice President for Student Affairs Thomas Gibson, states.

The statement promises to keep the BGSU community informed of instances when people “spread messages of hate on our campuses.” The message notes that white supremacist groups are targeting campuses across the country.

The message outlines what the university can and cannot do. “The University is committed to protecting the open exchange and debate of ideas and opinions. … BGSU cannot shield individuals from ideas that they find unwelcome or even repugnant.”

However, it draws a line when such postings deface property, as the stickers did, or violate university policy as other postings do. “Rather than suppressing speech, we can, and will, speak out against individuals or groups that espouse racism, anti-Semitism, intolerance or hate. We will also continue to work to support members of our community affected by such speech.”

The message concludes by encouraging those at BGSU to report such instances.

The complete message is below.

Members of the BGSU community:

At Bowling Green State University, we are dedicated to ensuring that all members of our community feel valued, appreciated, respected and safe. We will communicate to you when members of our community fail to live up to our values, or when outside individuals or groups work to spread messages of hate on our campuses.

Over the last two weeks, we have received several reports of stickers and flyers representing white supremacist groups that were found on light poles or bulletin boards on our Bowling Green campus. These types of activities are not limited to BGSU. We know from organizations that monitor these groups and from our peers, that white supremacists are targeting college campuses across the country.

Additionally, several individuals from an outside group were on campus last week demonstrating against homosexuality.

These viewpoints do not represent our core values of fostering diversity and a culture of inclusion.

We know these incidents are upsetting to many people and made some individuals feel unsafe. We want to share with you what we can do to address these types of incidents, and how we responded in these cases.

The University is committed to protecting the open exchange and debate of ideas and opinions – a bedrock principle of both higher education and the U.S. Constitution. This includes the right to assemble and freedom of speech as defined by the First Amendment. BGSU cannot shield individuals from ideas that they find unwelcome or even repugnant.

However, speech rights are not without responsibilities and limits. It is constitutionally permissible for BGSU to have and enforce rules that prohibit severe and pervasive harassment, that defame another, or that substantially interferes with University operations.

Rather than suppressing speech, we can, and will, speak out against individuals or groups that espouse racism, anti-Semitism, intolerance or hate. We will also continue to work to support members of our community affected by such speech.

As in the cases above, all reported incidents of bias are thoroughly investigated by the Office of the Dean of Students and/or BGSU Police. When a violation of the law or code of conduct occurs, perpetrators are held accountable. Students are reminded that violations of the student code of conduct are punishable with sanctions up to and including expulsion from the University.

summary of bias incidents reported to the University and the status of investigations can be found on our website along with a list of the support services that are available to individuals affected.

Everyone in our community – students, faculty and staff – have a role to play in making BGSU a welcoming environment. Please report any incidents of bias or concern using See it. Hear it. Report it. or by using the Report It button on the BGSU app. Reporting these incidents allows us to investigate and makes us stronger as a community.

There is no constitutional right to deface or damage property. The posting of the white supremacist stickers and flyers were a violation of University rules and were immediately removed. Putting an adhesive sticker on a University light pole is defacing property, regardless of the message. In these instances, Police will investigate and those responsible will be held accountable.

While we recognize that last week’s demonstration impacted members of our community, our campus is a public place and the individuals can be here and share their views. The demonstration was monitored by BGSU police to ensure no laws were violated.

We will continue have discussions on these important topics.

We cannot insulate ourselves from the hate that exists in the world. History teaches that the best antidote to hate is education and the knowledge and wisdom that comes with it. As a community, we can live up to our values and hold ourselves to a higher standard than those who hate. By working together, we can help to ensure all members of our community feel respected, appreciated, valued and safe.

Sincerely,

Mary Ellen Mazey, Ph.D.
President

Rodney K. Rogers, Ph.D.
Provost and Senior Vice President

Thomas J. Gibson, Ed.D.
Vice President for Student Affairs and Vice Provost

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