GRAPHIC | BRENNA MUELLER
Last week, campus was again struck by controversy with a letter submitted to The Forum written by William Fleck. He told of a speaker at North Dakota State who allegedly denounced people who identify as transgender and or homosexuals and argued the merits of slavery.
“The meeting began with the speaker denying the existence of transgender people and implying that it should be illegal for LGBTQ people to live as their authentic selves,” Fleck wrote, regarding the speaker, Jake MacAulay who spoke on campus Oct. 17.
Jared Rudolph, president of Lutheran Study Fellowship here at NDSU, claims that this is not the situation. According to his Facebook page, he believes no wrongdoing took place, saying in a post:
“I do not believe for an instant that it is beneficial or even reasonable to slander a man and drag his name through the mud. I find it hard to understand how someone, even if you disagree as much as is possible in this world, can put untrue words in the mouths of others and not have any sense of wrongdoing at all.”
I met with Rudolph who told a different story. While he admits that certain words were correct, including the speaker talking about George Washington’s slaves, tar and feathering a person and a metaphor about homosexuality, he believes they were taken drastically out of context.
This allegation would mark NDSU’s third public hate-related event in the past month. This includes the Identity Evropa posters and the Ku Klux Klan letter addressed to our paper.
In response to Fleck’s letter to The Forum, MacAulay wrote him a response. The response goes on to paint yet again, another story. According to MacAulay, both parties were offended.
“I must also admit that it has been very difficult for me to put to rest the words you spoke to me when I came into the hallway to thank you for your courage to speak. I don’t know if you recall, but you responded to my outstretched hand with, ‘Oh no, don’t shake his hand! You killed my friend.’”
This is ridiculous. This speaker and Fleck had no business being in the same room.
According to Fleck’s letter, Fleck’s friend who was transgender killed themselves due to outside pressure. Although this is a tragedy, it is unwise, foolish even, to say this if these allegations are correct.
Just as foolish, saying anything negative about homosexuality, because frankly, there is no argument against it.
Fleck’s letter and MacAulay’s response demonstrate a truth. We aren’t ready to debate hate speech.
And make no mistake, that is crucial at this very moment. Campus has had these three events in the past month — how can this be affecting students? We already have plenty to worry about between classes and studying, but now have to add on the pressure from a hate group.
The actions that NDSU chooses to make in this pivotal time are vital. It is crucial to the minorities that call campus home and to our sense of pride in education.
University is not the home of racism — it should be where it is fought most diligently. We must take these allegations and discuss what is happening on our campus. But notice a commonplace mute from all of campus. No Listserv, no letter from the president, just a strange cloud of silence.
“I think this is probably … the highest year of controversy and discussion about student safety and inclusion since the Tommy Bearson semester … And I don’t mean to put it on par with that, but I don’t think it has been anything like this since then,” Student Body President Mason Wenzel said. Wenzel also confirmed that this discussion is being had in Student Government.
This response, or lack thereof, to racism and bigotry on campus is happening when most people can’t even define what hate speech is and whether people should have the right to speak it. While we sit and debate though, people fear walking home, dodging stranger’s glares for fear of judgment and hatred.
What is hate speech? What is protected under the First Amendment?
Simply, what is being said is hate speech. The posters from Identity Evropa, the letter from the Ku Klux Klan, it is all one hundred percent hate speech. We must seek to discredit and disarm these ideals here at NDSU. And it isn’t going to be easy.
To me, and many others, it seems all too clear. Racism is racism, derogatory speech is derogatory speech, and the First Amendment of my country shouldn’t give people the right to racism or bigotry against anybody. But it does. And that is because we are supposed to be smart enough to banish them with an argument better than theirs.
It seems like the current political culture has allowed some to feel free to come out and debate topics that have been deemed illogical and hurtful for decades. There is no argument against homosexuality, and there is no argument for racism. Period.
“Many logical people like yourself even, we probably have different ideas of what hate speech is defined as. While they are probably minimally different from one another, it’s still finding that concrete definition of what is hate speech.” Wenzel’s administration is doing their research to have a concrete definition of what constitutes hate speech, but currently, it is up in the air.
We have a huge responsibility to find a quick and smart decision on how t0 silence these people who choose to divide us. We need to publicly bring these issues to light and allow a discussion to happen. This can’t just happen behind closed doors anymore.
Now we sit, though, and seemingly wait for another event to happen. It feels like we would rather sit and pretend like nothing happened because that is the easy thing to do. But I promise, it isn’t the right thing to do.