Two conservative students at Trinity University are claiming victim status: they say they have been harassed because of their political views.
What happened? Some other students politely returned their flyers to them. That’s it.
“These leftist intimidation tactics will not phase us,” Jonah Wendt, director of the conservative Trinity group Tigers for Liberty, told Campus Reform. “Once again liberals show how tolerant they are for ideas that are not their own.”
Amazingly, Jonah—who leads the group with his twin brother, Manfred—actually filed a harassment complaint with the campus police.
In summary: the Wendts are bringing conservative provocateur Dinesh D’Souza to speak at the San Antonio, Texas, campus. To advertise the event, the Wendts printed out 600 flyers and went dorm room to dorm room, distributing them. Many were returned, and placed in a neat stack outside the door of the Wendts’ suite. The Wendts then opted to re-distribute the flyers.
This time, they were returned to the Wendts with scribbles and notes on them.
“Dear Wendts, keep your propaganda to yourself. We don’t like it in our faces.”
Some of the notes answered the flyer’s implicit question—”What’s So Great About America?”—with a variety of leftist responses: Elizabeth Warren, trans bathroom rights, pot.
They were civil responses, as far as I can tell. And these flyers weren’t torn down from some public bulletin board: they were distributed to individual dwelling units. The students who reside there aren’t obligated to keep a flyer they don’t want.
The Wendts have two flags hanging on their door—someone turned them upside down.
For all of these reasons, the Wendts see themselves as harassment victims, according to The San Antonio Express-News:
Though Jonah Wendt largely chalked the incident up as an immature “hissy fit” and anti-Trump “liberal projection,” he and his brother still filed a report with campus police, alleging harassment. Wendt feels slightly uncomfortable that students who clearly do not like him know where he lives.
“This is a clear attempt at intimidation,” Wendt said.
Trinity takes claims of harassment seriously and is looking into the incident, said university spokeswoman Sharon Jones Schweitzer.
“The university works very hard to create an environment in which a variety of perspectives are allowed to be expressed,” she said. “The Tigers for Liberty event is an example of that.”
Trinity administrators, to their credit, have been incredibly supportive of the Wendts’ free speech rights. Dean of Students David Tuttle has repeatedly defended them on his blog. This is a campus official who actually values ideological diversity:
Life would be simpler without Tigers For Liberty. I mean, it was. Many would say it was better. But what they deliver is an organization for others to push against, and challenge, and practice with. Our students need these educational experiences to prepare for life after Trinity. And conservative students have every right to be here. They work to keep the community honest by offering alternative viewpoints to a left-leaning environment.
Like many of our students, they bring their own charm. They are bright, witty, self-deprecating, and thoughtful. Not to mention brave. They have their own legitimate issues with how they are treated on campus too. It isn’t easy speaking up sometimes. But that’s what college discourse is all about. It isn’t about free-speech zones (should be the whole campus), time-place-and-manner policies, hate-speech codes, and safe spaces. The last thing we need is to keep driving hate into the shadows. When we do, it doesn’t go away. It just hides.
Tuttle is absolutely correct to make the Wendts’ dissident viewpoint feel protected on campus. But that doesn’t mean they should be immune from criticism. And make no mistake, that’s all that happened here: liberal students took issue with the Wendts, as is their right.
When I complain that conservative students are borrowing the tactics of the irritated leftist who constantly whines about his (or zis) marginalization, this is what I’m talking about. Indeed, this has been my plea to leftist students: if you weaponize hurt feelings, you will eventually see this approach used against you.
Some will no doubt feel that leftists deserve to have the language of perpetual grievance turned against them, but promoting the idea that everything one dislikes is harassment will not make campus dialogue any healthier. The snowflakery on the left and the right must end.