In recent news cycles, far too often we have seen college campuses at their worst, but last week in Auburn among escalating tensions and talk of protests over white nationalist, Richard Spencer, we saw a college campus at its best.
There have been a number of high-strung protests, many of which have turned violent, at college campuses across the country over the past months. At the University of California at Berkeley, for example, we have seen riots that resulted in violence, destruction of property, and essentially mob rule.
But when Richard Spencer, a highly controversial figure regularly associated with white nationalism and other racist movements visited Auburn University on April 18th, students responded in a peaceful way that signified unity and was respectful towards an individual’s right to free speech, despite the deplorable content of that speech.
As a student representative, SGA Senator Mason Easterling followed the event in great detail. Easterling said, “I am very proud of the way the Auburn student body responded to the highly controversial Richard Spencer’s appearance on campus. What we saw in Auburn Tuesday was a peaceful assembly of students concerned about the message being delivered by Spencer, and responding in a unified manner that showed our true colors as an Auburn Family.”
There were certain groups of people who caused some tension. These groups, however, were from off-campus organizations and were completely unaffiliated with the university. Furthermore, their presence was mostly muffled by the overwhelming presence of peaceful Auburn protesters, who at times were observed chanting Auburn chants to drown out racist slurs made by the out-of-town agitators.
Another positive to be noted is the outstanding job performed by the Auburn Police Department. Sam Ross, an Auburn University junior, said, “I was outside of Foy during a good portion of the protests leading up to Spencer’s speaking event and the police presence was very impressive. They generally sat back and allowed everyone to protests and engage with one another, but when things did get out of control they responded very well to take care of the problem.”
As controversial speakers continue to exercise their right to free speech, students at campuses across the country will continue to exercise their right to protest. Hopefully, the conduct of Auburn University, Auburn students, and the Auburn Police Department can serve as an example to others of how to protest in a respectful way to avoid violence and promote unity.
Alt-right supporters of white nationalist Richard Spencer have gathered on Auburn University's campus. (2017, April 18). Retrieved April 24, 2017, from http://usprotests.liveuamap.com/en/2017/18-april-altright-supporter...