GWPD investigating after YAF posters were removed from campus buildings

Media Credit: Jack Fonseca | Staff Photographer

Members of GW's chapter of Young America's Foundation are demanding that officials punish individuals who tore down the group's posters.

The GW chapter of Young America’s Foundation is calling on the University to punish individuals who tore down posters promoting one of the organization’s upcoming events.

Several students have taken to Twitter over the past week to slam their peers for removing more than 300 posters from on-campus buildings advertising an April 10 event featuring a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush. Officials said the GW Police Department is investigating the incident, but GW YAF leaders said administrators must publicly condemn the incident to show support for conservative voices on campus.

Kara Zupkus, the co-president of GW YAF, criticized the University in a tweet last week after a flood of students complained about the University’s silence on the matter.

“When will @GWtweets act?” Zupkus tweeted. “Not a good look for prospective conservative students trying to find a school where they feel welcome.”

Zupkus declined to comment because of the ongoing GWPD investigation.

Dean of the Student Experience Cissy Petty tweeted to GW YAF last week that she supports freedom of speech and that instead of tweeting about the issue, GW YAF leaders should request a meeting to discuss how officials can better support students affected by the incident.

In an email, Petty confirmed that GWPD is investigating the incident and said she reached out to GW YAF leadership and offered support “as I often do when a student or student organization is facing tough times.”

She said students identified tearing down the posters will be referred to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities for violating a provision in the student code of conduct that prohibits the destruction of others’ property. The consequence for tearing down the posters has not yet been determined because the office handles each case on an individual basis, she said.

The code offers a disciplinary process for violations based on factors like the nature and impact of a violation and the individual’s prior history of misconduct.

“GW is committed to fostering a diverse, inclusive environment for every member of the GW community,” Petty said in an email. “Our campuses should reflect and embrace a rich diversity of students, faculty and staff who are treated equitably.”

Petty declined to comment on her reaction to the incident. She declined to say how the University can prevent similar instances from occurring again.

The removal of posters follows an incident in January in which posters were hung across campus appearing to threaten GW YAF for hosting an event with right-wing speaker Ben Shapiro.

Aimee Triana, the co-president of GW YAF, tweeted last week that the organization has lost at least 1,000 posters over the past few years because individuals have torn down advertisements for events like when Rick Santorum visited campus in 2017. Triana wrote that similar incidents will continue until the University “takes a public stance to enforce its rules.”

Triana did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Joey Rodriguez, the director of public relations for GW College Republicans, tweeted that conservative students at GW face “continually impaired and silenced speech.”

“I am sad that the posters were torn down because it means that the hard work GW YAF put into bringing an ideologically diverse, conservative speaker from those that usually come to GW is not being appreciated,” he said in an interview.

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