Education Human Rights

Student Senate debates accountability following graffiti wall hate speech

Photo by Nate Doughty
Written by Nate Doughty

Free speech and expression dominated discussion at Student Senate’s Wednesday night meeting after the body failed to pass a resolution dealing with the purchase of paint for the graffiti wall.

Resolution 1617-22 was brought up after the installation on Richland Avenue was defaced by racial epithets, controversial language and graphic content, over what had previously been an African mural painted in conjunction with Kids on Campus.

The resolution called for the purchase of white and black paint to be used on the wall, but the resolution did not state who would specifically use the paint, causing a debate on the Senate floor.

Many senators questioned who could have access to the paint and whether it would be used to advertise hate speech. The general concern of Senate’s reputation following another racially-motivated display was voiced.

“I feel like this is really bad publicity that we (Student Senate) don’t need at this time,” Nino Abololam, the International Affairs Commissioner, said in reference to the wall. “You can never pin an individual on who did this.”

Carolyn Miller, a Senator At-Large, proposed covering the wall with statistics about diversity such as a “a pie chart with a makeup of campus.”

“The people who are doing this aren’t the people who talk to people outside of their probably white friend groups a lot,” Miller said. “They don’t realize that there are real people on the other end of this thing. You can spew whatever rhetoric you want but you can’t assume that no one is going to be affected by it just because no one you know is affected by it.”

Other senators were more hesitant with defining “build the wall” as racist or hate speech.

“Understanding the distinction between illegal immigrants and legal citizens of the country is something that a lot of people are conflating into one,” Nick Felt, the Governmental Affairs Commissioner, said. “Yes, there are racial tensions, and people do mistake legal citizens and call them derogatory names… I actually believe that someone might have said it was a way for Mexicans to not emigrate here. That’s just not true, the policy is to get people here legally.”

One senator called for a cultural competency class for all Ohio University students to take.

“It will teach people what to do, what not to do, what’s appropriate, what’s not appropriate, what’s offensive to somebody that they might not think is offensive,” Akabalon Khalfani, the College of Art & Sciences Senator, said.

Senate also discussed the possibility of installing cameras to incentivise students to “act like the college students they are,” Logan Stark, the Off-Campus Life Commissioner, said.

Student Senate meets weekly on Wednesdays at 7:15 p.m. in Walter 235.

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