Posters labeled “PUNCH NAZIS IN THE FACE” reappeared on campus after previously being removed by Public Safety and The Office of Residential Life. In an email to the Wheaton community on Saturday, Dean of Students Kate Kenny asserted that the posters were “inappropriate and intimidating” and that violent threats “had no place on our campus.”
We asked students what they thought of the poster controversy. Many thought that Wheaton was correct to remove the posters and thought that violent posters around campus wouldn’t lessen oppression against discriminated groups.
As a Jew on campus, I cannot fathom the idea of considering condoning violence just because the ideas they put forth are hate-filled and bigoted, even against my own people. Though what they say is vile and disgusting, it is just as repugnant to suggest violence as a solution to our problems. To quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.” By resorting to violence we do not rise above the forces of evil, we only stoop to their level and become as terrible as they are. We must ask ourselves, what would we think if we were to see these posts about the African National Congress? By discriminating ideas, we lend credence to the argument that we too are bigoted, even if we tell ourselves it is for the right reasons.
-Samuel Mahler ’19
I agree with Dean Kate. The posters are violent and unnecessary on campus. Some students have argued that the only way to for the oppressed to get results is to fight violence with violence. Maybe so, yet spreading around a phrase on a poster honestly seems quite immature to me. I believe that the people who put these posters up are simply looking for an excuse to feel as if they are making a difference. They really aren’t though, they are just reminding us over and over again of how liberal this student body is. So what? That’s great, awesome. When will they understand that the only way to make progress is to communicate with people unlike themselves? As students, we should be focusing all of this drive in a more intelligent way so that we can actually enact change rather than simply stir the pot.
Others, however, either thought that Dean Kenny’s email didn’t do enough to condemn bigotry, or didn’t understand why students felt unsafe as a result of the poster.
I think it’s important to condemn bigotry, because dehumanization is not an opinion. It is bigotry. Yes, Wheaton has an issue about being altruistically liberal, but eventually this administration is going to have to pick a side. One way or another, this dancing over this line is going to have to stop.
The poster itself does not label anyone on campus as a Nazi. It is making a claim about those who identify with Nazi ideology. It is also not defining what a Nazi is; we know that they are a genocidal group responsible for one of the greatest tragedies in modern human history. That is why we want to punch them.
I’d like to consider the “violence is not the answer” doctrine with regard to the actual Nazis of World War II. When the US got involved, they did not engage in peaceful negotiations. The threat of fascism was never mitigated by a good persuasive argument; it was stopped by losing a war. This example is probably extremist; I am of course always willing to take a diplomatic action when possible, but in cases in which my friends and myself are being threatened with fascist ideology, I would rather take an active approach than a passive one.
My philosophy regarding this whole matter is that “I do not need to respect those who refuse to respect me.” This conversation has enlightened me, however, on many different perspectives on this issue, so I hope my own perspective continues to change and evolve as well.
Only around seven students attended Dean Kenny’s official discussion on the controversy. At least two of those students criticized the tone of Dean Kenny’s email, with one student saying that it did not “specifically and strongly condemn bigotry.”