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Display debacle: political orgs feud after MUB poster removal

Posters of Muslim, Latina and African American women painted in red, white and blue, scripted with “We the People” underneath were hung in the Memorial Union Building (MUB) by a non-student MUB employee this month, whose name remains undisclosed.

During the week of April 18, the MUB Management team removed the posters after concerns about their political nature were voiced by UNH’s College Republicans and one other student.  All MUB artwork is displayed at the discretion of the building’s management team, according to UNH director of media relations, Erika Mantz.

“The ‘We the People’ posters were hung in the Memorial Union Building by an employee. While artwork posted in public spaces and meeting rooms in the MUB is done at the discretion of the building’s management team, UNH is a public university and employees cannot appropriate university resources to express partisan political views,” Mantz said.

This display, commonly referred to as “We the People posters,” was created by Shepard Fairey, who is known for his “Hope” posters of former U.S. president Barack Obama during the 2008 election. The posters are available for purchase through the Amplifier Foundation, who partnered with Fairey to create the “We the People” campaign which, “is a nonpartisan campaign dedicated to igniting a national dialogue about American identity and values through public art and story sharing,” according to their website.

The College Republicans released an official statement on Facebook and Twitter regarding their concerns of Fairey’s political ideologies.

“It is known that the artist, Shepard Fairey, is anti-Trump and created the images in an attempt to highlight the groups that he felt had been criticized by Trump the most,” the College Republican’s said in an email.

“Furthermore, the notion that a non-partisan organization cannot make a political statement is simply and plainly false. Non-partisan means that the organization is not affiliated with a party. This does not stop them, however, from making political statements,” the College Republicans wrote.

“The College Republicans felt that UNH, as a public institution that receives state funds, should not make political statements of any kind – Republican, Democrat, or non-partisan, alike,” the College Republicans added.

UNH College Democrats agreed with the statement that public universities like UNH should not make political statements. However, the University of New Hampshire College Democrats have taken an opposing view of the removal of the posters and have posted an official statement on Facebook.

“We are a state school, we are a public school, and I do identify with those concerns. I wouldn’t want any negative impact on the school’s funding, due to an issue like this, however I don’t see a reason for any negative impact … I think at this point it’s become politicized … but I don’t think that it began that way,” vice president of the UNH College Democrats, Elias Tyrrel-Walker said.    

The removal of the posters has also elicited a response from the Diversity Support Coalition, according to Stefanie Cheung, the business manager of the organization. 

“When I first saw the posters taken down, I just questioned, is my face just a political statement? My whole family is Republican. How would you know? It’s not because of my skin color; my skin color doesn’t matter, my race doesn’t matter, my ethnicity doesn’t matter,” Cheung said.

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