AP FACT CHECK: Wisconsin college did not ban 9/11 memorial
By AMANDA SEITZ
Aug. 31, 2018
Conservative news sites and pundits are falsely accusing Ripon College, a private liberal arts school in Wisconsin, of banning posters that are part of a campus 9/11 memorial display organized by a student political group.
Several versions of the claim, which began circulating earlier this week, were made on newspaper sites, social media and online blogs. Many of the reports claimed college administrators told the student chapter of the Young America's Foundation they could not hang posters featuring images of terrorist activity because it made Muslim students uncomfortable.
Ripon College administrators, students, staff and faculty have received hundreds of threats by phone, email and online in response to the reports, said Melissa Anderson, a spokeswoman for the college.
A look at one of the claims:
ONLINE: "College bans 9/11 Memorial to not hurt Muslims' feelings" — The Federalist Papers, several sites carried similar reports
THE FACTS: A conservative student group's annual 9/11 display has not been banned on campus, Anderson said.
The Young America's Foundation, a conservative student group with college and high school chapters around the country display 2,977 American flags on the anniversary of 9/11 to honor each of the victims who died across the country as a result of the terrorist attacks 17 years ago.
The foundation's Ripon College chapter places small American flags on the campus lawn annually on Sept. 11. In a tweet Thursday, Ripon College posted a photo of the Young America's Foundation 9/11 flag memorial display from a previous year and called it a "great example" of how students engage the community.
But the college, which has less than 800 students, has come under fire by those who claim the student group will not be allowed to display a poster with several images of terrorist activity along with the phrase "Never Forget" this year. The poster includes images such as the beheading of American journalist James Foley, the 2012 attack on U.S. compounds in Libya that killed four Americans, and the 2016 shootings at an Orlando night club. In past years, the student foundation displayed the posters on 9/11.
Anderson said administrators have received complaints from students who found the posters "offensive and distasteful." She said the college's dean of students met with the Young America's Foundation chapter leaders last year to discuss complaints surrounding the posters, but no action or discipline was taken.
In May, the chapter's new president, Hannah Krueger, asked to schedule a meeting in the new school year with Ripon College's bias incident team to discuss issues surrounding the posters, according to emails Ripon College provided for The Associated Press to review. The school's bias incident team is tasked with examining verbal, written or physical acts that target individuals or groups, according to the student handbook.
The meeting between that team and the student group took place Tuesday. Following the meeting, the Young America's Foundation posted on its website that administrators will not allow the Ripon chapter to hang the posters on campus, spurring headlines about a "ban" on the group's 9/11 memorial. Krueger did not respond to the AP's request for comment on the meeting.
Anderson said the bias incident team did not take any action during the meeting. She characterized the meeting as a discussion and said the team tried to explain why some people might view the posters as biased against certain people. She added that the university offered up its student marketing resources to create a new poster.
"There was no ban," Anderson said of the 9/11 memorial. "The meeting did not result in any action."
Spencer Brown, a spokesman for Young America's Foundation who wrote about the issue on the organization's website, pointed out he did not use the term "ban" to describe Ripon College's stance on the 9/11 memorial. In an email to the AP, he said school administrators tried to dissuade students from hanging the posters at this year's event.
The Federalist Papers did not immediately return AP's request for comment.
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