Administration calls for inclusion of all political views, warns against hate speech

Diane Huang, Director of RubicOnline

Groggy faces and squinty eyes shuffled into the auditorium on the morning of Nov. 22. The topic of today’s impromptu morning assembly (which students were notified of just the morning before), headed by Principal Chris Hughes, was about making room for political diversity and not engaging in hate speech.

In his speech, Hughes stressed the importance of withholding judgment based on political perspectives.

“Just as people chose to support Clinton for a range of reasons,…People who are – and vote – politically conservative do so for any number of reasons – they could be driven by their view on the size and scope of the federal government, or fiscal or international policy, or other priorities,” Hughes said in his speech.

Following the results of the election, emotions were high. The Opinion Board was especially active in the following weeks, as students expressed thoughts and feelings about both the political leanings of the SPA community and the implications of the previous presidential candidates. However, a part of the community went much further than discussion, making unacceptable personal attacks based off of assumptions.

“We’ve had instances on campus of community members being labeled as racists, bigots, or misogynists because they support Trump or opposed Clinton, and making those assumptions and accusations runs counter to our community,” Hughes said.

“At the same time, I need to be crystal clear about where some of our lines of productive discussion fall…under no circumstances is anyone allowed to attack someone – verbally, in writing, electronically, or physically – because of their race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or other traits. That is a formal definition of hate speech…[which] is not protected…within our own school policy,” Hughes said.

“We have had at least two instances this year of elements of hate speech left as graffiti on campus…anyone found responsible for that type of language in any format will be subject to a major disciplinary response, up to and including expulsion from the school.

For the administration, having an assembly before the long Thanksgiving weekend seemed appropriate for students to have a break away from the school’s environment.

“In terms of timing, we needed to give some space past the election…I know I’m sort of walking the line between an intellectual and an emotional response as I think many of us are. But, I don’t think the community was in a place to hear what I hope was a balanced approach until some space had gotten through,” Hughes said after his speech.

Hughes recognized the special circumstances of this year’s presidential election, as the current presidential elect has encouraged actions and attitudes that directly threaten the identity of many members in our own community during his campaign. He also acknowledged the intellectual aspects and complexity of discussing this election and urged everyone to strike a balance between the two.

Consistently, there are people who are completely in their heads in terms of this, in terms of just intellectually, well “here’s where I stand and why” and there are people who are completely in their emotions and their hearts with it,” Hughes said, “and that’s almost impossible to have a productive discussion when you’re coming at things from such a different place – that’s what we need to keep working on.”