Q&A With LBCC President Hamann

Staff from The Commuter sat down to talk with Linn-Benton Community College President, Greg Hamann about a recent incident involving derogatory remarks made on the Civil Discourse Club whiteboard in Takena Hall on Oct. 4.

Here are links to the original article, as well as a library statement regarding the incident.

Q: How would you define hate speech?

A: I don’t know if I have a full answer yet. But I think it’s an important question, because I think when we have a clear incident of hate speech we are relatively united on how we respond. But we have different ideas on what constitutes hate speech. So, in this instance someone (posted) anonymously. By the way, one of the things I would love to do is to move us away from being anonymous because the kind of understanding and inclusion that we seek is only going to happen when we have dialogue with each other, and I can’t have dialogue if we don’t know who we are talking to. Somehow we have to move to a place where we feel free to own what we say so we can have the follow-up conversations

When somebody says something, to respond to it with sort of confrontation and condemnation and shaming or whatever you wanted to say, probably isn’t the best way to illicit that dialogue. That doesn’t mean you agree with it or disagree with what they are saying or you feel comfortable with what they’re saying.

I’m hoping that the way in which we will respond to things like this is not to condemn, but to change hearts. So, I’m hoping that I would be able to interact with someone who is perhaps a white supremacist in a way that maybe broadens their perspective. That would be my goal.

I think there are times that someone does something that is clearly hate, and an affront, and I think those are things that we as an institution have a value set that says that kind of communication isn’t consistent with our values, and doesn’t create the kind of opportunity and inclusion that we seek to instill in our students.

I think it’s important that we say that. I think some people interpret, perhaps, the way we respond to things as a bit of over-caution or sometimes even cowardice. I don’t think fear plays any role in how we are choosing to respond to these incidents.

Q: Do you think remaining neutral to these comments only emboldens the commenter?

A: Well, yeah. But it depends on what kind of comments we are talking about. I’m going to give you an example for you to consider. A couple of days ago, I had someone in my office who was an Afghan vet, a veteran of Afghanistan, and he said to me, you probably don’t know this but in Afghanistan it’s really insensitive and inappropriate, all those kinds of things, but in Afghanistan they routinely refer to that traditional dress as a “body bag.”

I don’t like that.
And, he said, when we were in Afghanistan we were wary of that outfit, not because of anything except that we knew it had been used to hide explosives, and it made us fearful.

Q: I’m a vet as well, and from my experience vets sometimes say things that are insensitive.

So you recognize that we can all be insensitive, right? And I would agree that this was wholly insensitive, yeah. Was it hate? Hmm?

Q: Do you think The Commuter’s coverage of this has the potential to isolate the commenter?

A: Well, I will start by saying that I think the role of The Commuter is to honestly represent the student voice on this campus. So, even if I did think that, I still think you have the right to do that. When I read it, I thought you raised questions more than condemning anything. I think they are good questions. I think the inclusion of students comments, you know, I was kind of impressed with the kinds of things students said.

I think mostly what I took away from that article is that this kind of comment isn’t helpful, that it doesn’t help us to build the kind of campus and environment that we hope to have for ourselves. And I think, how could that not be true, that is absolutely true. I think that is an important statement to make.

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