Jeffrey Lauck ’18
In the five days following this year’s presidential election, the Southern Poverty Law Center received over 400 reports of hateful intimidation and harassment. Unknown sums have not been brought to light. While pundits speculate as to what has caused the recent outbursts, many Americans now live in fear and are concerned if or when they will become the next target. Unfortunately, the Gettysburg College campus has not been spared of this plight.
Recently, many Gettysburg students have felt under siege as hateful comments regarding gender, race, and sexuality have found themselves into the classroom and around campus. In response, dozens of students camped out on the stairs of Pennsylvania Hall for twenty-four straight hours to show that they will no longer tolerate hateful rhetoric on their campus. The Gettysburgian offers full coverage of the events of the sit-in as well as reactions from activists and college administration.
I am proud of my fellow students for standing up (or sitting in) for injustice in their everyday lives. I have also been delightfully surprised by the outpouring of support from campus faculty, administration, and other students. Many joined them in their show of solidarity on the steps. Professors and administrators donated pizza, drinks, and snacks to the activists. The Gettysburg Recreational Adventure Board provided sleeping bags and mattress pads for the students who braved the sub-freezing temperatures during the night. Some professors even held class “on the steps.” Despite the melancholic subject of their discontent, students remained hopeful and reinvigorated by the support that they offered each other. At several points sing-a-longs backed by ukuleles, banjos, and guitars broke out among the crowd.
This demonstration will undoubtedly be celebrated and critiqued by many on campus and beyond. It is important that we remind ourselves what this demonstration was and was not. Let’s begin with what it was not. This sit-in was not a cackle of Democrats complaining that Donald Trump won the election. It was not a bunch of whiny college students calling for an end to free speech on campus. It was not a band of anarchists trying to shut down the operations of the college. It was not a crew of cynics who prophesized the end of American liberty. These are not the people who sat on those steps.
Rather, the sit-in was a celebration of students’ First Amendment rights to assemble and speak out. While one of the main concerns of the activists was the use of hate speech on campus, the overall sentiment was that the best way to stand up to others speaking out with intolerance was to respond by speaking out in a show of support for the victims and provide a clear statement that hatred is not a normal or acceptable part of campus life.
In short, the sit-in sent a message that many in the campus community will not stand for hate. But this small act of solidarity would be remiss if it did not end with a call to action for the future. Sit-in organizer Joseph Recupero ended the demonstration in kind: “Sitting here is extremely powerful. Hearing the support of faculty is powerful. But nothing will be more powerful than standing up when you hear or see things. Stand up and do what you can.”
The views and opinions expressed are the students and the organizations whom they represent and do not necessarily represent the views of The Eisenhower Institute or Gettysburg College.