As Lucian Wintrich and the students of UConn were creating one of the biggest debacles of the semester last week, I was following the events from afar, piece by piece. First students were posting on Twitter about how this was ridiculous, how could UConn let this happen? Next thing I hear, students are gathering to protest the white supremacist.
Soon the livestream of the event was up and running and I could hear Wintrich’s voice struggling to command attention. People were freaking out about milk and then Wintrich was fighting somebody and some girl had taken the speech and police were involved and glass was breaking and smoke bombs were going off.
In all honesty, it was pretty exciting from afar. I felt like I was in on something when I could explain the situation to friends or family members, like I had witnessed something racy and scandalous from the safety of my own home. I could gossip about the events I was removed from, objective and moderate.
I felt that both sides, Wintrich and the protesters, were at fault. Wintrich because he’s an internet troll who was given too much power which he uses to say offensive things to attract attention and the protesters because, although it’s within their right to protest, they didn’t need to be so intense about things.
However, in the week that has passed since Wintrich graced our campus with his controversial presence, I’ve had a lot of time to run the situation through in my head, over and over. And the more I think about it, the harder it is to come to a conclusion about how I feel.
I read Lucian’s speech and I can see how the things he planned on saying could appeal to individuals who aren’t racist, but are ignorant to race relations. Clearly, Lucian wasn’t the right person to bring these subjects to light. If these subjects were discussed in a safe space between parties who were looking to learn from one another, then broaching subjects like what it means to claim white history and why white people may feel persecuted could be beneficial for everybody.
The problem was that Lucian interspersed his comments with offensive descriptions, threw an image of Hitler on the power point behind him and drank a glass of milk which harkens back to Christoph Waltz’s rendition of the Jew Hunter in Inglorious Bastards.
I’m proud our university was able to show up and demonstrate that we can’t stand behind a speaker who has gotten famous for offending people in all the worst ways. That being said, I think it’s a little ironic that Wintrich’s undelivered speech was all about the inability of the left to accept alternate points of view. I believe in the right to protest and I believe it was right for students to protest Wintrich’s presence on campus, but I would be lying if I said that this hectic situation is the kind of protesting I’m normally down to get behind. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that the protest got violent, but it’s not as Martin Luther King Jr.-esce as I normally like to advocate.
However, discussions I’ve had with classmates, and even these events, have made me question the methods that I normally preach, which is part of the reason coming to a conclusion about what happened last Tuesday has been a challenge.
While these methods of protest may not be the ones I keep in my back pocket, I wasn’t the only student to get an email from President Susan Herbst about new rules for speakers on campus. Clearly the protesters did something right because it is resulting in change.
Alex Houdeshell is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.