Students wearing MAGA hats kicked out of coffee shop
New York, NY
On December 7, 2017, a group of Fordham University students were told to leave an on-campus coffee shop because they were violating its “safe space” policy. The students were wearing “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) hats. Fordham President Joseph McShane released a statement after the incident asking observers to treat students on both sides of the incident with compassion.
Aaron Spring is a junior at Fordham and a member of the university’s chapter of the College Republicans. He was among the students who were kicked out of the coffee shop. When asked if the group had intended to provoke a confrontation, Spring responded, “No, of course not. We were just a couple of friends going to get coffee, have a talk.”
Michael Esposito is a sophomore at Fordham and was also involved in the incident. When a student worker yelled at him “Fascism! Nazis!” for wearing the MAGA hat, he responded, “I do not see fascism, Nazis on this hat. I see America.” He later told the New York Post, “It was humiliating to be called a Nazi in front of so many people I go to school with. It’s almost scary.”
Father Joseph P. McShane, S.J. is president of Fordham University. He took office in 2003.
An unidentified student worker at Rodrigue’s Coffee House, located on Fordham University’s campus in the Bronx, became angry when several students entered the shop wearing pro-Trump MAGA hats. She yelled at them, “Five minutes! Get out! . . . I’m protecting our customers. . . . You are wearing hats that completely violate safe space policy. You have to take it off, or you have to go.” When Esposito asked her to explain, she shouted, “Fascism! Nazis!” A video of the altercation was posted to Campus Reform’s website.
The coffee shop’s “Safer Space Policy,” which the student worker accused the students of violating, directs guests “not [to] make assumptions about someone’s gender, sexuality, race, class, or experiences,” and mandates “No racism – No sexism – No homophobia” in the space, reported the Post.
Though Spring told the Post the group was not trying to provoke a confrontation, a member of the Fordham College Republicans told Campus Reform, “We went [to Rodrigue’s] because we wanted to test the unwritten rule that conservatives were banned from that coffee shop. . . . We went there and just started doing some homework and studying. Then we were asked to leave.”
Fordham clarifies ‘safe space’ policy, announces investigation
In the wake of the incident, President McShane released a statement to the Fordham community. He clarified that the university itself does not have a safe space policy. Instead, he said Fordham should be a safe space “in the sense that it is and must remain a place where all of the members of the University community are free to share their opinions, and to have those opinions respectfully tested by their peers.” The statement concluded with a plea for commentators and onlookers to approach the incident with compassion, since “those involved in this situation are students; first and foremost they are here to learn, and they may make mistakes.”
The statement also declared that Fordham does not exclude any students from its community based on their political views, and said that the university was investigating the incident.
Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18
Uploaded March 5, 2018