Talking through the issues: how should we react?


Akari Oya

A large group attended the brown bag lunch discussion to reflect on the Aug. Charlottesville riots.

Rachel Einhaus and Kellsie Edgcomb

Amanda Cook Fesperman hosted a brown bag lunch discussion titled “Rethinking Charlottesville: Should We Tolerate Hate?” on Aug. 30. 

The event centered on the riots over Confederate symbols in Charlottesville, W.Va. on Saturday Aug. 12 where many were injured and one woman was killed. 

She began the conversation by discussing how brown bag discussions work. Fesperman calls on those who wish to speak, one person speaks at a time, and everyone is expected to be respectful. 

Cook Fesperman, political science and history instructor at IVCC, spoke on the fact that many of the alt-right protesters were carrying anti-Semitic signs and chants. 

“What do Jews have to do with a Confederate statue?” Cook Fesperman asked.

“How do we react [to these events]?” IVCC sociology instructor Dr. Jared Olesen asked. “Is it ever ok to punch a Nazi–where is the line?” 

The event discussed questions like these and gave some answers to students who were struggling with the issues.The event gave the idea that if the First Amendment right to speak hate is taken away, the right to speak in general to the public about controversial subjects may also be taken away. 

Lori Cinotte, journalism and English instructor asked, “How far do we want to go or how far are we willing to go to have our government control that right?”

Cinotte also mentioned that the right “changes over time and it changes as our society changes.”

The first big issue discussed was the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. 

Students quickly brought up the issue of liable and slander.

Neither are protected speech. However, the right for peaceful protests must exist so both sides of an issue get heard.

Many of the students explained that this fight was not fighting people in the streets and that it had to do with civil disobedience. They asked if we were “willing to accept moral degradation?” 

The students also explained why some of these riots are bigger now than they were in the past. Some of these ideas included “more pronounced hate” and “exposed more because of social media.”

This event had a large audience. The whole CTC-124/125 room was full. The event ran over the expected amount of time. 

Many students participated and let their voices be heard. The discussion broadened over time to include public officer holders’ statements validating hatred, police brutality, and Black Lives Matter organizations. 

IVCC student Taylor Gaydos stated, “If you don’t do anything, you are siding with the oppressor.”