Free Speech Concerns Are ‘Nonsense,’ Said Clemson Staffer Who Called Harambe Memes ‘Rape Culture’

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By Jillian Kay Melchior | 7:33 am, January 12, 2017

Last September, the community director for five of Clemson University’s halls made national news when she told RAs of a ban on the public display any memes featuring Harambe the gorilla. After complaints that this restriction suppressed speech, Clemson backpedalled.

But new emails, reviewed exclusively by Heat Street, show that the same student staffer who claimed the memes were “rape culture” was also infuriated by other students’ defense of their First Amendment Rights.

The student staffer, whose name is redacted from the records released by Clemson, received an email the day after the Harambe ban from a concerned student.

“Though I cannot speak for everyone,” the worried student wrote, “I know a majority of us [living in the halls] are American citizens, which gives us the right to free speech, and I feel this ban is infringing upon that right.”

The student staffer working for the residence halls responded, “In regards to your question about why we are no longer allowing Harambe references, there have been reports that he and the incident surrounding his death have been used to add to the rape culture as well as being a form of racism.”

Privately, that same student staffer fumed about the experience to a professor, the records show.

“If I’m being honest, the fact that I have to deal with this nonsense pisses me off, but I know that I still have to put my helping hat on and address these students. … These students don’t seem to understand that these memes can be offending or triggering other people in their community. Their only concern is that they feel like they are having some type of right taken away from them.”

It’s unclear whether that student staffer continues to do work for the Office of Housing and Dining. By deadline, Clemson did not respond to Heat Street’s request for a comment. You can read the student staffer’s entire essay on the exchange below.

Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.

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