On Monday, members of the IU Chapter of the Traditionalist Youth Network protested at Boxcar Books. They waved signs denouncing communism, Zionism and modernity and spoke about how college students must band together with “tradition and tribe.”
Counter-protesters met them with anger. Other students painted over their messages on a campus bridge. Their posters were removed from the walls of Ballantine Hall.
Despite wide-spread disapproval from fellow students, TYN is still a registered student group. James Wimbush, vice president of Diveristy, Equity and Multicultural Affairs, said the group has a right to exist, just like any other student group.
“This is a place where we allow for the diversity of thought, the diversity of opinion,” Wimbush said. “We don’t necessarily agree with what this particular group is spouting. But unless they violate the Code of Conduct, unless they violate the criteria of being a group, we do allow students to exercise their First Amendment rights.”
Thomas Buhls, founder of the IU chapter of TYN, said he feels that he can express his views freely on campus.
“I feel like there’s a sort of dance I had to do with the university,” Buhls said. “Because I am a registered student organization there are some rules I have to follow.”
IU Dean of Students Herold “Pete” Goldsmith said the university needs to be open to debating issues, adding that “while we may not all agree about everything, we can agree that we will make this place a place where the conversation can take place.”
Wednesday night, IU Student Association President Jose Mitjavila addressed members of different IU student organizations on how to react to hate speech.
“He made a statement about civility and responding,” Goldsmith said. “He encouraged others to respond by counter-chalking, counter-demonstrating, holding forums.”
IU junior Sarvesh Somisetty attended the meeting and represented 180 Degrees Consulting, an IU group sponsored by the Kelley School of Business. Somisetty expressed concerns about the conduct of TYN’s counter-protesters.
“I’m Indian,” Somisetty said. “I should be offended, but they can say whatever they want. Now, (the counter-protesters) look like the bad guys. It doesn’t help their cause.”
Somisetty said he believes the University needs to keep a “constant message” regarding the protection of student groups.
“They should be protecting all students,” Somisetty said.
While all students have their First Amendment rights protected by the University, they need to be mindful of how they get their message across.
“If entrances were blocked, if we couldn’t carry on normal university business, if there was any kind of violence, that would certainly trigger a response,” Goldsmith said.
TYN’s posters were removed because they were not placed in the appropriate areas of Ballantine Hall.
“I think it’s a very complex issue,” Goldsmith said. “I’m very sorry that people were offended by what was chalked or what was said. It’s not in the spirit of what we’re trying to create, but I also have to defend the ability of people to say things that I may not personally agree with.”
Follow administration reporter Hannah Alani on Twitter @alohalanii.
—Tori Fater contributed reporting
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