UC Berkeley political activists must not promote hatred

CAMPUS ISSUES: Students across the political spectrum must bridge gaps by engaging in meaningful ideological debate rather than promoting hateful division

The Republican presidential nominee repeatedly spews hateful rhetoric without restraint, and students on this campus must vigorously challenge his supporters’ ability to overlook blatant racism and sexism. But at the same time, we must ensure that every student — regardless of political affiliation — feels safe on this campus.

In an election where the Republican standard bearer exemplifies the kind of hateful, uninclusive viewpoints that the Berkeley community works hard to combat, students must think critically about what constitutes acceptable speech. How can the campus reconcile the fact that open support for Trump potentially harms the various communities his rhetoric targets?

Countless reminders of the Free Speech Movement mark our campus — from the Mario Savio steps to the FSM Cafe — forcing us to reflect on the principles of a movement driven by students from both ends of the political spectrum. Although often remembered as a liberal push, the Free Speech Movement was an attempt to provide all students a chance to politically engage on campus.

Some expressions, however, are clearly hateful in nature. When activists come to campus and build a mock wall in support of Donald Trump’s deplorable immigration policy, it sends a loud and clear message: Undocumented students are not welcome at UC Berkeley. Undocumented students who were specifically targeted by this action should not have their learning environment disrupted by such an intentionally provocative, odious message. Their counter-protest against the mock wall was not only justified but well done.

The insinuation made by many media outlets recently that conservative students at UC Berkeley face a hostile environment certainly bears truth and merits acknowledgment. But that doesn’t change the fact that on a daily basis, Trump makes claims that explicitly tell large swaths of people in this country that they don’t belong.

Naturally, that doesn’t excuse any violence against Trump supporters. Allegations that students had punched a member of the Berkeley College Republicans and tore a Donald Trump poster in half, if true, are unacceptable. Trump supporters on campus should be allowed to support their candidate while being firmly challenged but not physically harmed.

As the adage goes: Seek first to understand rather than be understood. On a campus that serves largely as an anti-Trump echo chamber, understanding exactly what makes his supporters so willing to overlook or rationalize the candidate’s policies requires allowing his supporters to express themselves.

While it’s important that students feel they can voice their political views on campus, it’s also essential that students who belong to communities that the dangerous and divisive candidate targets feel they can exist safely on this campus.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Senior Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.

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