SUNY Oswego Earns Controversy After Allowing Conservative Org to Promote Trump's Wall On Campus

On Feb. 12th, a SUNY Oswego organization called Young Americans for Freedom posted a picture of some of their members tabling in the Marano Campus Center, promoting building the wall. Captioned, “Might be snowy outside but that’s not stopping leftist from getting heated at our Build The Wall Table! #YAFonCampus #WinWithYAF,” the tweet immediately gained attention from current students and graduates, most of which were angry and shocked with the school’s approval of such advertisement.



YAF is a generally conservative organization that promotes similar ideals. In the past, they have held events with right-wing speakers like Star Parker and Humberto Fontova, earning a fair amount of contention from students. They also emailed SUNY Oswego's Student Association, asking to take the flags down in the Marano Campus Center: 

There are a few blunt issues that are outlined in this situation. One, the purpose of tabling in MCC is usually to bring attention to an organization or club and to recruit new members. Other times, it’s to promote a particular event going on. In this case, YAF genuinely decided that it would be a good idea to do neither of those things, but rather support and encourage President Trump’s wall proposal. Beyond their advertisement, they were welcoming individuals that disagree; a subtext obvious by the wording of their tweet. It wasn’t just about advocating for the wall, but it was also an invitation to get students “heated.”

Not only are these individuals advocating for the wall, but SUNY Oswego openly allowed them to promote hatred on campus grounds. The wall is not a symbol of sole conservatism or Republicanism -- it’s an authentic effort pushing for racist ideas in a country in desperate need of repair. At its core, this is a thinly-veiled attempt to advance racism throughout the nation, and YAF unabashedly brought it to campus.

SUNY Oswego’s response to the incident has been, unfortunately, extremely disappointing. For a public university that claims to welcome diversity, it’s obvious that President Deborah Stanley’s agenda is more so aligned with promoting “free speech” rather than protecting students that feel unheard, upset, or even attacked. In the hours following the controversy surrounding YAF’s initial tweet, President Stanley sent out a campus-wide email after students apparently posted violent threats against the organization. While such alleged threats should never be tolerated, the individuals retaliating are the only ones receiving any sort of discipline from the school.

In her email, President Stanley claimed that “The principles of free speech and expression are fundamental to an open society.” I admit this is true -- but what happens when that “free speech” is being abused in favor of hatred? When students on campus are promoting racist ideas against marginalized groups? What are the students that are being directly affected by this current issue supposed to do? Stand by and pretend that it’s okay since, ya know, they’re just utilizing their right to free speech?

It’s simply unfair. SUNY Oswego is excusing the actions of YAF (especially since they permitted the organization to do this in the first place), and are condemning the rest. President Stanley’s assertion that “students, faculty, and staff who wish to rebut expressions of others to use their words and voices to add their experiences and understandings to the public ‘marketplace of ideas’ that is the soul of SUNY Oswego,” is an obvious effort to calm the waters in order to avoid any further controversy.

There is a difference between permitting students to voice their opinions and allowing them to advocate for offensive, hurtful and racist ideas -- and I suggest SUNY Oswego learn about it.