Full house for free speech forum at UT

TOLEDO (WTVG) - A big turn out for a town hall at The University of Toledo Thursday. The focus was free speech. It all stems from a banner that was hung in the Student Union at the university. The banner was taken down, but it's effect was lingering. So UT President Sharon Gaber called for a forum.

There were hundreds of students,faculty and community members at the forum. The reason they were there was a banner put up by the College Democrats. It showed a picture of President Donald Trump wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood. The banner read join the College Democrats.

Connor Kelley is a member of the College Democrats,"I am not surprised by the reaction." Connor says the group expected a loud and angry reaction, "We decided that it was still a good idea to post it because of the discussion that would come from it."

And there were hundreds who wanted to talk about it. Elizabeth Layhew is a sophomore from Monroe,"I feel like the actions of the College Democrats at UT were polarizing and non-inclusive. I know Democrats on campus who did not approve of the message."

Intahntea Hopson is a sophomore from Denver,"I think it's important to know how the school feels overall about a situation when it comes to politics. It is good to hear both sides regardless of my opinion."

The banner was taken down, but not by the university. President Gaber says she was offended by it, but adds that we have to respect people's freedom to express their views. Dr. Gaber wrote a letter to the campus community yesterday inviting them to come talk about free speech.

Andrew Taylor thinks the forum was a great start,"This is going to be extremely beneficial to campus. Bringing people together with opposing view points is an important discussion for campus with such a variety and diversity of students."

University leaders were impressed with the questions and discussion that came out of the forum. Dr. Sammy Spann is the Associate VP/Dean of Students,"My hope moving forward is to continue to have an open dialogue. I always say speak the truth, expect some discomfort and find a resolution. We spoke about it, there was some discomfort and now it's time for healing and finding a resolution."

Even with opposing viewpoints everyone we spoke to agreed the forum was helpful and they look forward to more discussions on campus about free speech.