Editorial 4/18: On “Free Expression & Thoughtless Expression”
CONTENT WARNING: Discussions of homophobia, transphobia, racism, misogyny, anti-choice rhetoric, Islamophobia, and harassment.
To the Hamilton Community,
The past few months at Hamilton have been difficult for, well, everyone. With two outbreaks this semester, infecting well over a quarter of students—reaching as high as 10% of the student body at one time—people have been on edge. However, a much more persistent problem has reared its ugly, hundreds-year-old head: discrimination and bigotry at Hamilton College. This year, and particularly this semester, a long list of hateful incidents and experiences have been at the center of campus discussion, anger, and protest: multiple marginalized faculty members have resigned, one publicly describing experiences of targeted discriminatory harassment left unresponded to by the College; students have needed to fight for the basic human dignity of their names being pronounced correctly at Commencement; and hundreds of students, faculty, and staff protested the College’s inaction on issues of racial, gender, sexuality, and faith justice, especially concerning the harmful actions of the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI). Hamilton College and its senior administrators have not sent any notices or made comments in student media about any of these issues.
Students have also been angered by student-wide emails from the Rosary Club (which is not a recognized student organization) declaring anti-choice and homophobic sentiments, as well as a recent article by its founder and president in the Enquiry that claimed that the campus’s rightful hurt by this messaging was discriminication. The article can be read here, but please be aware of the extreme racism, homophobia, and misogyny that is in its core. Here is, instead, a summary of the sentiments expressed: overt disgust with the presence of a Black drag queen on campus, defense of the view that love between individuals of the same sex/gender is “inauthentic,” bemoaning that the author could not criticize Black people without accusations of racism, and much more. This individual also named The Monitor, as well as The Duel Observer, The Daily Bull, the Newman Council, the Black and Latinx Student Union, the Gender and Sexuality Union, some athletics teams, and Student Activities as the roots of this perceived discrimination against Catholics.
Without question or reservation, we at the Monitor have no ill-will towards Catholics nor anyone who is religious. All of the critiques that we have expressed in our pages have not been on the basis of religion but rather on the hatred that the Rosary Club expresses regularly in their emails and op-eds. We certainly hope that being religious does not exempt someone who makes very public statements from being publicly critiqued.
The editor-in-chief of a national far-right publication, The College Fix, soon picked up the story in the Enquiry and published a “news” story last week, heavily quoting this student and the president of AHI, Professor Robert Paquette. This article has now been reposted on numerous websites, and College Fix’s Facebook post linking to the article has thousands of reactions and comments, some encouraging people to call or write to Hamilton to express their anger. People from across the country have commented on Hamilton’s Facebook, one describing Hamilton as “in league with the Devil and it’s [sic] minions.” Of Hamilton’s students, another said “Your students are cowards. They wouldn’t dare mock Mohammad because there wouldn’t be a school left to mock.” Since this is not the first time that Hamilton has been written about in the College Fix, resulting in harassment of students, and out of concern for future harassment, we will not be linking the article here. It has enough views as is.
For the first time all year, Hamilton’s Chief Diversity Officer (a title not included in her email) and Dean of Students Terry Martinez sent a notice to all community members last night addressing an ongoing controversy. Her vague, cryptic email does not name any student or organization, but it is clear she is talking about Rosary Club and campus responses to the club from her use of the same examples listed in the Enquiry and College Fix articles. Without naming them, she criticizes The Daily Bull and The Duel Observer, our only two satirical publications, for pieces she deems to be “thoughtless expression.” She applies the same description to “bigoted posts on Jodel” and “crude banners in Commons.” (Of note: this is the first time that a senior administrator has issued a statement referencing Jodel and the bigotry found there since May, 2020.) Martinez had nothing to say about Enquiry’s publication of explicitly homophobic and transphobic views which triggered many of these actions. It is clear from her statement that Hamilton’s priority is to defend itself, not marginalized students. When faculty, staff, and students at Hamilton College attempt to raise awareness about and confront discrimination on this campus—especially when it pertains to their ability to have full and happy lives with bodily autonomy—the Administration often tells them to quiet down, if they say anything at all.
Martinez’s email, by not naming any incident or view in particular, may have been an attempt to issue a blanket condemnation of poor behavior, equating all sides in this conflict to one another. If this is the case, this “both sides” framing amounts to a defense of those causing the harm. As Professor Mariam Durrani, the professor who published her resignation letter earlier this semester, said in a social media post last night: “To call racist, misogynist, transphobic, homophobic discourse ‘thoughtless’ invsibilizes that such forms of ‘expression’ at Hamilton College specifically are supported/funded by the right wing outrage machine proximal to campus— but that’s exactly why I call this a centrist arts college because erasing how power works means you’re siding with the oppressor.”
If Hamilton and CDO Martinez genuinely wished to discuss freedom of expression here, they would do well to consider that students, faculty, and staff have come to feel palpable fear at the thought of criticizing AHI. In our role as editors of The Monitor, we have the opportunity to speak with a wide range of students to get their perspective on issues on campus. Numerous individuals we have spoken with, including some members of our staff, have been threatened with lawsuits by individuals associated with AHI for publicly criticizing them. Hamilton College has known this for years; we know because we have had multiple conversations with administrators about it when those threats have been levied against us. Students and faculty we have asked to write articles or provide quotes for our publication about AHI have often said they are afraid to do so, worrying that they will either become a target for online harassment or receive a cease and desist, or worse. Administrators like CDO Martinez and President Wippman have used the term “cancel culture” to describe students critical of AHI, but are entirely silent about these legal threats.
There is much more to unpack here, but for the moment a few things are clear. Hamilton College has not condemned the bigotry directed towards marginalized communities, has not responded to widespread semester-long calls for them to do more, and is redirecting its energies to suppress those who critique hatred rather than those who perpetrate it. We encourage faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents, and donors to contact President Wippman and the Board of Trustees to urge a change in course that prioritizes the well-being and needs of marginalized folks at Hamilton rather than the “feelings” of bigots.
Madison Lazenby, Editor-in-Chief
Finlay Adamson, Managing Editor
Keir Adamson, Managing Editor
Eric Santomauro-Stenzel, Managing Editor
Updated 4/19 to fix typos.