University of Oregon: No “Support our Troops” Stickers
A yellow ribbon sticker that says “Support The Troops” has created a big stir at the University of Oregon. A day after a campus employee was told to remove the sticker from his maintenance vehicle — people on campus are reacting. It all started after a university employee complained. Some think the university may have gone too far. But for now… all the stickers are gone. For some it’s a sticker that supports the troops. But at the University of Oregon… someone saw it as a political statement. “I don’t know how they think these are political.. i think they’re patriotic,” said Pete Baker, U of O delivery driver. Pete Baker has had the stickers on his work truck… for months. Friday, a university employee… complained. Now the stickers are gone.
“I’m not democratic or republican.. and i was really surprised the university deemed them to be political,” said Baker. Others who work with Baker… try to understand. “These are like their offices they work in them for eight hours a day.. they’re going to do something personal with them,” said Ron Lattion, facilities Maintenace worker.
In an e-mailed statement.. the University of Oregon says it is unclear if the decals are a political statement. But to make sure they are in compliance with state restrictions… all stickers were ordered to be removed. “I think it’s really a tough situation… because both sides have valid arguments,” said Terra Wegner, a U of O student. “It really comes down to the question of should state employees be allowed to express their opinions,” said Morgan Goulding, a Eugene resident.
Not surprisingly, this story is causing a lot of outrage. Michelle Malkin condemns this action and likens it to a “We Support Our Troops When they Shoot their Officers” sign. Kevin McCullough suggests an e-mail campaign to overturn the injustice and wonders why state employees shouldn’t be allowed to express their opinions. Jordan Golson finds it “disturbing” and believes the University is violating its own diversity policies. Kevin Aylward doesn’t say much about it but provides several links.
While I think the University is overreacting here, I’m not particularly concerned. If they were telling Baker to take the sticker off his personal vehicle as a condition of working at the school, this would indeed be outrageous. They’re not. They’re merely telling him not to put it on a vehicle owned by the University. Indeed, I’m not sure what business an employee has putting stickers of any kind, political or otherwise, on a state vehicle.
In the context of an unpopular war, “Support Our Troops” is indeed a political message, if an innocuous one with which almost all agree. When one sees the sticker on a vehicle, one presumes that the occupant of the vehicle not only supports our troops but supports the war. University vehicles, especially in a state-supported institution, should not be platforms for sloganeering.
When I was teaching at Troy State, our chancellor used a graduation ceremony held shortly before a statewide referendum on an “Education Lottery” to help encourage people to vote for said lottery. He invited newly elected Governor Don Siegelman, who ran almost entirely on a platform of passing the lottery, as the commencement speaker. He had recently retired Georgia Governor Zell Miller, whose most notable achievement until then was the passage of a similar lottery in the Peach State, to introduce Siegelman. Now, I supported the lottery, voted for Siegelman (later regretting it), and liked Miller. But I nonetheless believed this was an outrageous use of the University platform.
Conservatives who are outraged by the University’s edict should ask themselves how they’d feel if, instead of “Support Our Troops,” the sticker said “Visualize World Peace” or simply had the Vietnam era “Peace” symbol. For that matter, there are plenty of variants on the “Support Our Troops” stickers that most conservatives would find offensive, let alone appropriate for a University vehicle.
Update (1321): Ed Morrissey excerpts the University’s rules on political expression and finds that the sticker is not in violation of them. I would concur. This doesn’t change my viewpoint as expressed above, although it does muddy the water a bit as to the consistency of UofO’s enforcement.