Opinion | UI students’ protest of Pence was not constructive

The protests were disrespectful and did nothing to facilitate debate.


Gabby Drees

A protester holds a sign at a protest against former Vice President Mike Pence in the IMU at the University of Iowa Monday, Oct. 11, 2021.

Ally Pronina, Opinions Columnist

University of Iowa students missed out on an opportunity to have an open, civil debate by showing disrespect toward someone for disagreeing with them.

Some students’ response to former Vice President Mike Pence coming to talk at the Iowa Memorial Union on Nov. 1 was combative and not constructive. Instead of disrespecting the former vice president, the UI community should have used this opportunity to have a civil and respectful debate.

As previously reported by The Daily Iowan, protesters blocked the stairs as attendees left the building, which forced many down the ramp. Protesters also stood outside the IMU with signs which read “Sexist, racist, and homophobic politicians not welcome.”

First of all, it’s extremely childish to block stairs and force people down a ramp just because they want to listen to a speech of a politician you dislike. Second, while I respect the right of the protesters to freedom of speech and to hold up these signs, they do not actually do anything to initiate any change.

The signs probably did not change the minds of anybody at the event, and they certainly didn’t change Pence’s. Instead, liberal UI students could have had a conversation with the students and Pence about specific laws and policies he enacted they thought were discriminatory.

Pence would probably be more willing to listen to and consider the point of view of someone who is civil than someone who is holding up a sign with the “F-bomb.”

Attendees had opportunities to ask Pence questions during the speech. One student respectfully asked Pence why he supported former president Ronald Reagan in his speech, giving specific reasons why they did not like Reagan.

Pence respectfully responded and gave his reasons for supporting Reagan. This is how politics should work. There needs to be civil and respectful discussion instead of name-calling and signs with the “F-bomb.”

While protesters did have freedom of speech to do what they did, Pence had the freedom of speech to come talk at the IMU. Doesn’t a politician who takes time out of a busy schedule to come talk to college students deserve to be respected and welcomed, regardless of what party she or he is from?

I could not help comparing what happens when a Republican comes to Iowa City versus what happened when Bernie Sanders came to my hometown of Pella, Iowa for the Fourth of July parade in summer 2019. Despite being more right-wing than Iowa City, my hometown treated the liberal senator with respect. While I disagree politically with Sanders, I would never think about being as rude to him as the protesters were to Pence.

Plenty of people waved at him and took pictures, including my family. I did not see anyone hold up signs. Why can’t it be the same when a conservative, especially the former vice president, comes to Iowa City?

Conservative speakers have as much freedom of speech and deserve as much respect as liberal ones. Those liberal students that protested Pence need to learn to have civil discussions instead of protesting anyone with a dissenting opinion.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.