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Columbus Day signs removed by students, not the administration

Halie Johnson

A student took responsibility for removing signs posted by the Native American Sisterhood Alliance protesting Columbus Day, after some group members had raised questions about the Office of Admissions’ possible involvement.

Soon after the administration denied any involvement in removing the signs, senior Cameron Holly said that she removed some of the signs that read “Warning: You are now on Indian land” because she found them offensive as someone who is part Native American.

“My grandfather is a member of the Cherokee nation,” said Holly. “Anyone who knows anything about the Natives knows that they didn’t own the land in their own eyes. Land ownership was a European concept.”

Some Alliance members originally suspected that the postings were removed by administration officials in connection with the Office of Admission’s open house for prospective students, but Vice President of Enrollment Management Julie Richardson refuted claims about the administration’s involvement.

“We didn’t try to remove those remarks,” said Richardson. “We wouldn’t dream of it.”

Junior and Alliance member Esther Lucero said that despite the Alliance’s original suspicion of administration involvement, the organization has since “received nothing but support from the administration.”

Holly said that she waited until after Columbus Day to remove the postings because she appreciated that the signs raised awareness.

According to Lucero, a junior, other students were also involved in removing postings. Lucero said that during a meeting last Thursday between Alliance members, administration officials and professors, called in response to the removal of the postings, another student passed by and tore down one of the group’s signs.

Lucero said that removal of the protest signs raised issues about free speech and expression on campus.

“According to the First Amendment we have a right to free speech,” Lucero said. “If you are opposed to our statements, you have a right to post your own signs in opposition, but don’t limit our free speech by tearing things down.”

Senior Patricia Contreras said that removing some of the signs protesting Columbus Day could also be seen as “contributing to the marginalization of First Nations People.”

Alliance members followed the posting policy, according to Coordinator of Student Life Alexis Bucknam. “They informed me in advance, and I approved it,” said Bucknam about the postings.

Dean of Students Joanna Iwata, who attended the Alliance meeting, said that there might be repercussions for those who remove postings. “If students are caught taking things down, there’s a judicial process,” she said.

Iwata said that the removal of the postings “gives us pause to reflect on our current code of conduct on campus.”

“When people take things down without sharing why they chose to do so, it devalues the kind of environment we are trying to create on campus,” she said.

But Holly said that students have just as much right to take posters down as they do to put them up.

“Posting things and having it taken down has been an issue ever since my freshman year,” said Holly. “If it’s that offensive, I think that people have a right to take them down.”

Richardson said that when Ethnic Studies professor Dr. Berman Santana asked that Contreras speak to prospective students about Indigenous Peoples’ Day and the significance of the postings, she was happy to give them the opportunity.

“Admissions does not try to engineer our environment for the public,” she said.