The issue of climate change was on hand Friday, as two students aimed to shed light upon the present environmental situation. To do so, they used two ropes as nooses, hanging them around their necks in an assumed attempt to create awareness.

After being confronted by multiple campus affiliates and students, they removed the ropes and committed to reparations as university staff quickly moved to explain and apologize for their actions.

Through what can only be described as a failure to pay attention to detail, an effort to raise awareness on a viable issue resulted in a historically insensitive and ignorant gesture.

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Reesor and the University Housing Office sent emails in response to the morning’s events. These messages did well to remediate the impact caused by the actions of the protesters and offered counseling for those in need. 

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Despite the appropriate action that was taken to remedy the incident, this entire development is unacceptable on a fundamental level.

A weekday morning on the campus of the University of Wisconsin provides a time for activists and attention seekers to make themselves known to thousands, as commuting employees and students are forced to witness whatever is presented to them on their journey to work or class.

Generally, those who wish to make a point or preach their opinion on the street do so by creating signs or playing music, something to catch the eye of the bystander. The first amendment does a wonderful job of ensuring people have the right to do so, a necessary piece of the democratic pie which allows us all, as Americans, to express ourselves and our virtues. 

However, it is of supreme importance that we, as a campus community and national citizenry, understand that persuasion and change are the results of professional and accurate information being laid at the feet of observers.

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There were no climate pamphlets, posters or relevant material of any kind advertising the cause at hand during this incident. Without these items, not only does the act seem hasty and innately unreliable, it appears downright stupid. Instead, we had nooses, an unnecessary but more importantly entirely irrelevant display that connotes troubling themes for this nation’s past.

Passing by this demonstration on Friday made me realize the true power of speech — both positive and negative. Should they have been forced to end their protest? No. The bottom line remains that everyone, regardless of their ability to communicate a message, has the right to express themselves. This way, we can hear the voices of everyone and support those we align with. But it was absolutely necessary to hold these students accountable, which is what happened Friday.

Some of the worst rioting and clashes between administration and activists are the simple product of fundamental miscommunication, rooted in ignorance and assumption on both sides. Through this way of thinking, we get violence rather than rational discussion, as seen throughout history. This, on a smaller scale, is what we saw on Friday. As a campus, we witnessed the culmination of poor planning, apathy, and ignorance.

Moving forward from this, I ask those involved and the community as a whole to embrace and respect the privileges afforded to us by the constitution. When they are misused, it can catalyze confusion and outrage. When disrespected or challenged, the integrity of our freedom is damaged.

Justin Lariviere ([email protected]) is a freshman studying communications and economics.