Controversial signs cause free speech debate

Julia Bagnata, Staff Writer

      On Tuesday, March 27, soldier and BU student John Fromille created a Facebook post about a professor on campus that has since created controversy. The post included a picture of signs hung up in the office of Philosophy professor Wendy Lee, which read “Biggest shithole in the world is Donald Trumps racist soul” along with an upside down American flag. Although the signs themselves have since been removed (a new sign reading “Free Speech” now in their place) the flag—and the controversy—still stand.

     In his original post on Facebook, Fromille expressed concern about Lee utilizing space on a state-funded university to express her political ideals and was especially worried about what he feels is an abuse of Lee’s influence on campus as a professor: “part of learning is being exposed to different ideals and beliefs…there is a difference between “teaching” students about various political platforms and ideologies, and “forcing” your own personal views on them” he wrote.   

         Fromille is especially bothered by the upside down American flag that Lee continues to hang in her office window. In a separate Facebook post created on April 2 Fromille claimed Lee’s actions violate U.S. Flag Code, which states that “the flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.” Fromille believes that some military students are offended by what could be viewed as disrespect towards the American flag.

     In response to Fromille, Lee wished to make it extremely clear that she has never pushed her political beliefs on students who have taken her classes; in addition, she stated that she takes issues of free speech very seriously and does not intend to back down, saying “I did not give up my rights when I became a professor.” She also responded to those who were offended by the flag she has displayed upside down in her office window, making clear that she did so because she feels that our country is in distress due to the current administration and fears for the future: “no one is free of the risk of being offended,” she said.  

     In response the situation, freshman Secondary Education major Tim Kirk had this to say: “we live with [the] stigma that we’re supposed to be professional in the education environment, but we can’t ignore what is right in front of us.” Kirk went on to state that he thinks Lee’s protest of what many believe is an under-qualified president is justified, and he respects her right to voice her concerns about what this presidency means for the future of our country.  

         Bloomsburg University’s Director of Media Relations Tom McGuire has previously responded publicly to this situation, stating that BU’s campus is open to those who hold a variety of different beliefs, something that is crucial to any educational experience.