Controversy sparked by demonstration

L'Eunice Faust

Facebook post about Flags on the Quad triggers argument

Created with the intent of raising awareness to the immigrant experience, Hispanic Society of Lafayette’s Flags on the Quad event ended with controversy after a photo of the event was posted to the school’s Facebook.

Although there was some initial support, and the post garnered over 130 likes, Facebook users and alumni alike began to challenge HSL’s initiative. President of HSL Alexa Sousa ‘15 began to respond to the commentary that included language, such as “illegalalien,” a term which she and others in HSL find to be a racial slur.

“I don’t think these alumni realize how offensive they were being,”Sousa said. “There is a large Latino population on campus, and they could be calling students and their loved ones terms that are racially prejudiced. It makes me wonder if there would have been such a backlash if we had put flags on the Quad for European immigrants who tried to cross the Atlantic.”

While defending the purpose of HSL’s event along with trying to explain other facts of immigration, Sousa was personally attacked. One commenter suggested that she“seem[s] to have an anger problem.”

“I hope [Lafayette] has counseling services on campus to help you with your issues,”added the commenter. “Good luck with your therapy!”

While some commenters seemed supportive, there were a few more who argued on the post. Assistant Professor of Spanish Juan Rojo also commented on the posts, challenging some of the viewpoints.

“I think a lot of the viewpoints expressed were opinions based on feeling and misinformation,” said Rojo, in a later interview.“For instance, the statistic that gets thrown around a lot is that there are 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country. If you look a little further, you will realize that 6 million of those people are tourists who overstayed their visa, which is a civil offense, and a violation—not something addressed in the criminal code.”

Much of the commentary was deleted from the post by the Lafayette Communications Department, but some comments remain.

“I’ve seen Yik Yaks that are worse,”Rojo said. Still, he didn’t believe these comments should be deleted.

“I believe in freedom of speech, and Lafayette is a private institution, where constitutional law doesn’t apply,” he said. “More importantly, seeing this kind of hateful speech does more to push the issue forward, because people see it for what it is.”

Sousa and other board members of HSL were featured in The Lafayette last week, and their photos along with other Lafayette students are visible on the Internet.

“This made me scared for myself and others who were featured as a part of this event,”Sousa said.“These are supposed to be people I can trust, but because of this public display and the Yik Yaks I’ve seen, I don’t feel comfortable knowing that myself and my peers may face these issues when trying to network with alumni, or even on campus.”

The flags were removed from the Quad Sunday night as part of an Immigration week event used to bring attention to the journey of migrants. In the five days the flags were on the quad roughly 200 went missing.

We reached out to the Facebook commenters and Lafayette Communications Department, but did not receive a response by deadline.