This week, after Scripps College administrators demanded that the phrases “F*** Zionism”, “F*** white people”, “Death to AmeriKKKa” and others be removed from the chalkboard walls of its student-run Motley Coffeehouse, the café’s student management team is outraged that these messages, which it regards as “valued speech,” are being silenced.
The Motley, which previously made headlines for hosting events that excluded white people from the premises, calls itself “an intersectional, political, and feminist business” with a mission “to foster independent thinking and purposeful change.”
According to a formal note from Scripps College administrators, the offending phrases violated the College’s Principles of Community, as they were not expressed in an appropriate “time, place, and manner.” The phrases “may not be written on Scripps College property within a business establishment operated on campus,” though the note also stressed that college officials “are not taking the position that students may not intellectually subscribe to these statements or make them in an appropriate setting.”
In response to the administration’s order, “The Motley Manager Team” wrote and posted the following note on the coffeehouse wall at the center of the dispute:
“We are complying with the college, but we will not do so quietly. We call into question the swiftness with which Scripps College responds to speech that challenges systematically privileged identities, and we challenge the community to think critically about what speech makes them feel uncomfortable versus unsafe. We want the students who wrote these statements to know that their perspectives are valued in this space and that we will continue to resist Scripps’s effort to silence these perspectives in public spaces such as The Motley. / We recognize that erasing this board works to reinforce systems of power and oppression, and therefore we will not let this be where we let the story end. We urge the community to challenge each other and ourselves, and to destroy white supremacy, white privilege, colonialism, fascism, and (neo)liberalism on campus.”
This is not the first time that student speech has sparked controversy on campus. Last March, when the message “#Trump2016” was found scrawled on a whiteboard hanging in the hall of a student dormitory at Scripps College, student body president Minjoo Kim derided the “vandalism” as a “racist” act of “intentional violence” in a public address to the community.
Both the Scripps College administration and the management of the Motley Coffeehouse declined to comment upon request.