Despite its initial lack of response, the UC San Diego administration was aware of the white men carrying signs and yelling statements insulting women and members of the LGBTQ community on Library Walk on April 19, UCSD spokesperson Christine Clark confirmed to the UCSD Guardian. Clark noted that the men do not need permission to be on campus and were within their First Amendment rights.
The men were stationed near the Silent Tree for the majority of the day, carrying a large sign that targeted feminists, single mothers, and the LGBTQ community through derogatory phrases and ideas.
One part of the sign specifically read, “Feminists promote rape through: drunkenness, immodest dress, hanging out with homos.”
The men drew a sizeable crowd throughout the day, with many students mocking or trying to argue with them as they shouted about how women should behave, all the ways in which college students are sinning, and other aggressive statements. One man jumped up on a cement block and said something to the effect of, “Any girls here who look half-decent probably want to have sex with me.”
Clark released a campus statement to the Guardian, stating that the university administration denounced the men’s actions.
“We condemn the hateful and repugnant messages that were being promoted that are counter to the values we uphold as a campus community,” Clark said.
The administration received some criticism on the day of the incident for its silence on the men’s behavior.
“This is what happens when our university fails to distinguish free speech from hate speech and fails to recognize how these forms of harassment crease unsafe learning and working environments,” the UCSD Student Workers Union posted to Facebook.
Clark pointed out, however, that speakers on Library Walk, who comply with the campus policies on time, place, and manner, are protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The statement also acknowledged that the actions of these individuals were hurtful and claimed that the administration shares the frustration, anger, and concern felt by many.
“As a university centered on discourse and inquiry, we encourage members of our community to exercise their free speech rights to oppose those expressing hate, as many did on that day and do so continuously through their research, art, and teaching,” Clark said. “Together, we can use our voices to collectively condemn and confront intolerance and bigotry.”
When the Guardian asked Clark why the university did not release its statement condemning the men at the time the incident happened and instead responded only when asked about it, Clark declined to offer any additional commentary.
“The university does not release statements for everything on campus,” Clark said. “There’s ongoing work on these issues all the time on campus, not necessarily just when an incident pops up.”
Clark also directed the Guardian to UCSD’s website on free speech, which states “Free discourse, however, is not always civil, respectful, or reasoned, and can sometimes be deeply offensive and hurtful. While at times, the exchange of controversial ideas and opinions may be distressing to our community members, it is important to recognize that the university acts as a home for diverse and sometimes contradictory ideas and opinions.”
Such demonstrations by men degrading women, LGBTQ persons, and others have happened annually in recent years.