Editorial | Defend free speech, not hate speech

Illustrated by Gaby Fantone

On the first day of class, some students were met with a jarring sight: fliers, promoting the immigrant-based event series La Frontera, were covered by white nationalist propaganda. Neo-Nazis were on campus the first day of school. They clearly targeted the promotion of a series of events designed to engage students in critical conversation.

The efforts of Patriot Front, a group that brands itself as a pro-United States cohort, are completely and utterly against everything the United States stands for. This wasn’t an exercise of free speech or bolstering of patriotism. This was hate speech, tried and true. Stickers and fliers that read “Better red than dead” covered up the efforts of professors and students at Chapman. For a university that promotes the ideals of free speech as a pillar of a well-rounded collegiate experience, the fact that this hit went unnoticed and publicly ignored by administration is appalling.

It’s fine to promote freedom of speech, but our administration should have no tolerance to bigotry. The university will send out school-wide emails notifying students about planned power outages scheduled for 3 a.m. during summer break, but remains silent when white supremacist propaganda is plastered around campus.

The history of white supremacy in Orange County is well known. We’ve written editorials similar to this in the past. One was about high school students saluting a swastika made of red party cups. This time, we were hit closer to home. It is amazing that despite societal progress, we are still having to say the exact same thing: white supremacy has no place on our campus.

The fact is, hate groups are on the rise – not just in Orange County, but across the country. There are concerted efforts to recruit college-aged members, to establish ideas of hierarchy and “natural order” and promote the intolerant belief that this country has to be protected from outsiders. La Frontera is a unique opportunity for students to discuss topics like immigration, freedom of the press and cultural differences. The placing of the Patriot Front fliers on top of posters promoting La Frontera is abysmal.

Sure, we don’t love white supremacist groups, but if their fliers and promotional content had been placed next to La Frontera’s or posted somewhere else on campus, this would be a slightly different issue. But this was intentional; a deliberate attempt to silence others.

This was an attack on marginalized communities; it wasn’t free speech. It was the targeting of the busts of a former president of Mexico, a former president of the United States and a Civil Rights icon.

It was an assault on what this school says it stands for: inclusivity and empowerment. Are these people really pro-America if they defaced arguably some of history’s most valiant defenders of democracy? Absolutely not.