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Messages of Hate on Campus Wall Put Freedom of Expression to Test : Education: Pomona College structure is a forum for student views. But vitriolic scrawlings could bring it down.

December 26, 1995|JOSE CARDENAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"If they don't like some of the messages, paint over them," said 18-year-old freshman history major Adrienne Cobb. She said that as an African American, she was somewhat bothered by the noose but cringes at the prospect that such an incident could lead to censorship of student views.

"If they're going to censor one thing, they might end up censoring something I say," Cobb said.

Senior history major Rodriguez, who has been involved with Latino groups that have written political and cultural slogans on the wall, said the messages often mirror controversies developing in society: immigration, gay or military issues or the budget battles in Washington. He said many students see the wall as their forum to address important national matters, and that if the wall is toppled, the college will lose a valuable venue for dialogue.

"I personally don't think [some messages] are appropriate. But at a college, there should be room for all views," he said.

Some students fear the uproar on campus may result in silencing the voices of students with certain social or political inclinations.

"I just wouldn't like it if some people were singled out because they have a certain kind of opinion," said John Kolmer, a 22-year-old history senior.

Menefee-Libey said the liberal college community has been shocked that such hostility toward minorities and gays exists on a campus that prides itself on being at the forefront of inclusiveness.

"Some people will view [restrictions] as censorship by the politically correct movement, but we see it more as an issue about the students of Pomona College," he said.

Aside from the suggestion to raze the wall, other ideas so far include requiring students to check out painting supplies from the student body government office instead of using their own and to sign their names by the messages.

Others have suggested that the administration take photographs of the wall regularly to keep a historic record.

In the next two months, the committee will hold hearings to gather more student and staff sentiment. Based on their findings, they will make a recommendation to Stanley, the college president, by the end of February. Stanley will have the option to enforce committee suggestions or reject them.

Many students hope the call will not go against the wall.

"Instead of knocking the wall down, we should address the issues that cause the writing and the pain," Rodriguez said.

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