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Leavenworth bulletin board stirs controversy

By Nicole Webster
On December 13, 2017

"Impeach Trump" signs were vandalized on a Leavenworth Hall bulletin board posted by Planned Parenthood Generation Action. Photo by Olivia Maher. 

“Treason” written in ballpoint pen over “Impeach Trump” in bold and all caps typed on plain white paper could be found on the bulletin board in the stairwell to the lowest level of Leavenworth on Friday, Dec. 1.

The Student Chapter of Planned Parenthood Generation Action at Castleton University uses that bulletin board as a forum for conversation “especially for current events that we think are important to talk about,” president of the club Sarah Liell explained.

They decided to focus on that specific current event due to all of the sexual assault allegations in the media and the “Me Too” campaign, as well as President Trump’s quotes from Access Hollywood.

Both Liell and the secretary of the club, Joshua Lake, said they wanted to start a conversation about how our leaders and elected officials talk about women.

“We made the decision to take it down to come up with a good response that was constructive and adds to the conversation and is meaningful. We put it back up, the sign that said “Impeach Trump” with “Treason” written over it,” Liell said.

It was removed within the span of an hour while Liell was in class.

They don’t know who removed or who vandalized their signs, but that’s not their concern at this point.

“It doesn’t matter who took them down. Our work needs to be even stronger in the future. We are going to broadcast that we have the first amendment right to do that. There is nothing in student codes or handbooks that says we aren’t allowed to criticize,” Lake said.

Castleton does have a posting policy in their student handbook that states “the name of the sponsoring organization/department/vendor must be included on all materials.”

The only words on the “Impeach Trump” posters were “Impeach Trump,” so no one knew for sure who put those signs up.

“No club owns a bulletin board on campus. With something like 68 clubs on campus, everyone has to share. They also have to say who put it there,” dean of students Jonathan Spiro said.

He also made sure to say that Castleton values freedom of speech and that people can say pretty much whatever they want as long as it’s not demeaning, sexual or discriminatory toward a person or group.

Rich Clark, Castleton’s Political Science program coordinator, wondered who put the signs up and couldn’t tell if the person who wrote “impeach” was siding with the club by saying that Trump should be impeached for treason, or if they wrote “treason” as a response to people wanting to impeach Trump.

Most people believe the latter in this situation, but Clark wants to believe that students wouldn’t think that saying someone should be impeached is treason.

“The scary idea is calling it treason. The ability to criticize our elected officials is protected speech because of our first amendment rights,” Clark said.

Both Liell and Lake know that they aren’t going to get Trump impeached with a sign and they also know that they aren’t committing treason, because treason is collaboration with a foreign entity or domestic and foreign enemies.

“We want to highlight that it’s a board for conversation, political engagement and things that are important,” Liell said.

Rather than putting up the Trump signs again, they’ve opted to put a new interactive board for people to share their “Me Too” stories. Their goal is to make some positive social change on campus through these boards.

Spiro would like those putting messages on Castleton’s bulletin boards to remember to think about what potential students and parents of those students might think when they are touring.

“As Jonathan, not as academic dean, I would ask people to be nice and treat each other nicely. People can and should express political views, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be toxic,” Spiro said.

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