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Courage And College Republicans

Mark Wiltz, president of Nicholls State College Republicans, and CR secretary Jade Hawkins (illustration via Brushstroke)

This week I drove down to Thibodaux, Louisiana, to give a Live Not By Lies talk at Nicholls State University. Thibodaux is Cajun country. It is not the Bay Area. It is not the Upper West Side. It is not New England. It is a conservative place. But earlier in the week, the Social Justice Warriors made their malign presence known on campus in a big way.

Last weekend, the campus College Republicans chalked pro-Trump messages on the sidewalk. Such as:

 

“Geaux Trump” is the most Louisiana MAGA thing ever.

Anti-Trump students had a meltdown. Over chalk. On a sidewalk. Here is a parade of fragile students speaking out at an extended student government meeting, all of them outraged that other students expressed a political opinion — support for the re-election of the President of the United States — that caused them anxiety. I’ve cued the video to the first speaker. There’s a long line of them:

This is just embarrassing. I started out my college years at LSU (1985-89) on the political left, and active on campus. It would never have occurred to any of us to have appealed to university authorities to silence the College Republicans. It would never have occurred to any of us that anybody on campus with any political opinions should be compelled to be silent. We actually liked to argue! Crazy us, we thought learning how to argue with our opponents was a good thing.

After the student government meeting, Nicholls State president Jay Clune responded thus:

That’s it? The president sat through a long meeting in which student after student said, in various ways, that the expression of support for Donald Trump was illegitimate, and ought not to have been heard on campus, because it upsets people. If the College Republicans broke state law by putting chalk on a sidewalk, surely that is an extremely minor offense, but okay, slap them on the wrist. If I were a college president, though, I would be seriously alarmed that so many of the students under my authority did not seem to grasp the fundamental liberal values of free speech and free thought. This was a teaching moment, but Dr. Clune whiffed.

It got worse. On Wednesday night, after my talk — which went well — I had dinner with a couple of professors, their wives, and a young student couple who are at the center of the controversy: Mark Wiltz, president of the College Republicans, and his girlfriend Jade Hawkins, the CR secretary. That day, Jade had gone to her classes accompanied by a campus police officer because of numerous death threats she had received from fellow students. Not at Oberlin, not at Evergreen State — at Nicholls State, in Thibodaux, Louisiana!

Here are some of the things she and Mark received. I spent some time later perusing Nicholls student social media to find more of it:

“That boy” is Mark Wiltz:

One student worker at a university office decided that she was going to go on a strike in protest of the fact that Republican students who had received death threats were accompanied to class by police officers for their protection:

 

Lo and behold, she got fired! Good! But now she cannot believe that she was actually held accountable for her actions. Dr. Perry did the right thing.

Anyway, it was a genuine shock to me to hear all this, and to imagine that it was happening on a small public university campus here in a ruby-red state — and that the college president was not taking a clear and unambiguous stand against those students who would threaten violence against these conservative students, who would use racist invective (“Coonkaylen”), and who would demand that political speech that makes them feel uncomfortable be silenced. Nicholls State is a university, not a day care or a seminary.

After I returned home, I asked Jade Hawkins if she would be willing to be interviewed via e-mail. She said yes. Here’s our conversation:

RD: When you and I met for dinner, you had spent the day being escorted to class by a campus police officer. Why was that necessary? What happened at Nicholls?

JH: After the negative response to the Republican chalking some students and others took to social media with threatening messages. Saying that we need to “watch our neck” or deserved to be snatched up, one even went as far as asking to borrow an ak [AK-47 — RD]. I was worried about my safety on campus. The officer was there to help me get from class to class because I didn’t want to risk being harmed but I also didn’t want to miss classes and fall behind.

I’m shocked that this is happening not at Yale, or Oberlin, or one of the “usual suspects” schools, but at a small public college in a very conservative state. What does this say about the left in your generation?

I wouldn’t go as far as saying this is the whole left, I have close friends with different political views than me. But what is sad in this instance these students never really wanted to have a conversation or hear us out. They went straight to attacking us in large groups on social media. Being able to speak freely and have disagreements is one of the great things about our nation, and I will not let this group scare me into silence for issues I believe is right.

I gave a talk about Live Not By Lies at Nicholls, and was well received. I could tell that there were some people in the audience who didn’t like my message, but they were respectful. To what extent are these Social Justice Warriors representative of the student body?

I do not think that this group is the student majority, I just think they’re the loudest. I have received multiple messages and phone calls of support from students who are admittedly scared of speaking up for me in public. They’re afraid of getting the same kind of backlash that I am experiencing. That’s why I was so pleasantly surprised about how well your talk was received, as I feel as if students really heard you and respected what you had to say.

In your opinion, how has the university’s administration behaved? It is shocking to me that the Nicholls leadership hasn’t taken a firm, unequivocal stand against this kind of harassment from the left.

In my opinion this has been handled very poorly and that is so upsetting me. Our university President sent an email stating that our chalking was against state law and university policy yet he never sent one condemning the threats, harassment and bullying of students by students. These messages and examples were sent to them on Monday and there has yet to be any statement from the university despite their “No Tolerance” policy.

You are dating the head of the Nicholls College Republicans, who is black. I see on social media that he has been viciously criticized, in racist terms, by other black students. What has this been like for him?

He makes me so proud in the way that he never lets others’ words get the best of him. He knows he’s a good man and that’s all that matters. If anything this has just given him motivation to stand true and firm in what he believes in, and has given him more of a reason to proudly vote Trump 2020.

As we discussed a bit at dinner, when I was in college here in Louisiana in the 1980s, we had liberals and conservatives on campus, but we found it possible to argue without turning to hysterics and threats of violence against each other. So much has changed. What kind of country will we have when these students who believe the way to get what they want is to scream, emote, and threaten people with violence, graduate and go out into the world?

To me, the thought of that is worrisome. I want to be able to have a conversation and come to compromises or at least agree to disagree. Yet if there is no open dialogue, how is anyone going to be able to share ideas?

There are people on the right and the left who see what is happening to you all at Nicholls, and who want to help you stand strong. What can we do for you?

The best thing anyone can do to help is to stand firm in your beliefs. Don’t let anyone silence you, but don’t shut down conversation either. If we all start working towards having respectful conversations that would help us all.

The kind of courage that Jade Hawkins, Mark Wiltz, and the Nicholls College Republicans are showing is an example to us all. President Clune, please take notice. Louisiana state legislators, you do too. No student in this state, black or white, liberal or conservative, should have to go through what these young Republicans are enduring. Maybe the CRs should not have chalked without permission, but that is of far less importance than the atmosphere of illiberal bullying that has arisen out of the campus left in response.

UPDATE: Sorry, I misread the “AK” above — it’s AK-47, not axe — I’ve corrected it.

This e-mail went out to the parents of the Little Colonels Academy, a campus day care:

Parents,

The year 2020 has been a very challenging year in many ways for family, friends, and colleagues. Some of these include COVID-19, political unrest, and peaceful protests occurring on campuses nationwide.

As we continue to navigate these challenges, it seems that new challenges arise that test our strength, determination, and perseverance.These situations can be frightening for young children who are not yet able to comprehend adult matters. In an abundance of caution, we will be making the following changes at LCA effective immediately and will continue until further notice:

● Nature walks

○ All nature walks have been suspended until further notice.

○ Children will be provided with additional outdoor play time on our AMAZING new playground as much as possible.

● Heavier campus police presence

○ You may see a heavier campus police presence in the vicinity of the center. This has been requested to provide an extra layer of security for your little learners.

● Drop-Off (7:00am – 9:00am)

○ Only essential personnel will be allowed access to the center.

○ Parents will bring children to the entrance of LCA where Mrs. Katie, Mrs. Sarah, or Mrs. Jen will be available to retrieve children. ○ Children will then be escorted to their classrooms by an available teaching assistant.

● Pick-Up (3:00pm – 5:00pm)

○ Only essential personnel will be allowed access to the center.

○ Children will be escorted to Mrs. Katie, Mrs. Sarah, Mrs. Jen, or Mrs. Jaycie. One of these ladies will then escort your child/children to meet you outside the entrance of the center.

○ We ask that – when possible – parents call ahead [deleted] so we can prepare children for pick-up. Please leave a message if needed as we may be unable to immediately answer the phone.

Again, we are tremendously grateful for your understanding and patience as we strive to continue to provide a safe and developmentally appropriate environment for your little learners. LCA has been extremely blessed with the continued support provided by LCA families, members within the Nicholls community, and Nicholls administration. Please feel free to reach out with any questions or additional concerns.

How about that. The radical campus left at Nicholls State has forced a campus day care to suspend normal operations because they cannot guarantee the safety of little children.

Tell me again how the Left is all about social justice. This mob needs to be brought under control. President Clune, expel those who threaten violence. Defend those little children. Defend the college students under your authority. Defend your university.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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