As Inauguration Day dawned over Clemson University, life-sized Donald Trump and Mike Pence cardboard cutouts occupied the school’s Library Bridge. The event, organized by Clemson’s free speech advocacy group WeRoar, was designed to generate discussion about the incoming presidential administration.
One faculty member’s reaction stood out, escalating the event’s tension considerably. Ryan Nielson, a WeRoar staffer at the event, asked Mike Sears, an Associate Professor in Biological Sciences, if he would like to take a picture with the “President.”
According to Ryan, Sears retorted, “F*ck off, he’s not my president.” Ryan reportedly told Sears to “have a nice day” and Sears responded by flipping him the bird and leaving.
When Professor Sears was asked for comment in a follow up email, he replied “First, I would like to apologize for my comments. They are not consistent with my vision for an inclusive campus.” Finally, however, he admitted, “I responded inappropriately.”
Although these comments were unprofessional for a university employee, the apology seemed genuine enough.
Wearing their favorite Trump apparel, participants mimicked the Commander in Chief by raising both thumbs and smiling. Holding a WeRoar sign, students posed by flexing and hugging the cutouts.
By no accounts was everyone happy about the event, however. Attendees stuck out their tongues and flipped the bird. Some participants took a violent approach by miming punching the President in the face, while others wrapped their hands around the cutout’s neck and grabbed the cutout’s crotch.
One woman, making a beeline from Cooper Library, held anti-Trump political signs fresh from the printer, with slogans like “Black Lives Matter,” “Climate Change is Real,” “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights,” “Grab the Power,” and “Be Brave Choose Love.”
Kinda felt bad for skipping all my classes til I saw there was a cardboard Tr*mp on library bridge? Y'all can suck a fart from my ass— M (@_MESSYMADISON) January 20, 2017
Students took to Twitter to air their opinions as well. Tweets included “Someone on library bridge just asked me to take a picture with a life size cut outs of Donald Trump and Mike Pence so that’s how my day is going,” “Black Clemson, I think we should write a letter about the Trump and pence cardboard cutout today bc it was highly inappropriate,” “The trump and pence on library bridge gotta go,” and “Kinda felt bad for skipping all my classes til I saw there was a cardboard Tr*mp on library bridge? Y’all can suck a fart from my a*s.”
Jack Timmerman, another WeRoar staffer at the event, stated, “Some people would rather throw obscenities and insults than have a discussion,” but ultimately, “The event was a great success, where many used their First Amendment right at their discretion, respectfully and disrespectfully.”