At Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, CA, controversy has emerged after comments about President-elect Donald Trump were made by human sexualities professor Olga Perez Stable Cox. The Huffington Post broke the story on December 7, 2016, and since then, the campus has been buzzing with students' views on the subject.
Professor Cox expressed her opinions on the election results using phrases such as an "act of terrorism" as she discussed Donald Trump's recent the election. In her comments, Cox referred to Vice President-elect Pence as “one of the most anti-gay humans in this country” while appearing to refer to President-elect Trump as a “white supremacist," according to The Huffington Post.
However, these phrases were taken out of context when a lawyer contacted by the OCC Young Republican club threatened action regarding these comments. The full transcription of this video shows that the professor was talking about much more than just these few phrases, offering support and coping skills for people who may be feeling unsafe after this election.
Here is part of the full transcription, courtesy of The Huffington Post:
“…white supremacist and a vice president that is one of the most anti-gay humans in this country. And so we are in for a difficult time but again I do believe that we can get past that. Our nation is divided, we have been assaulted, it’s an act of terrorism. One of the most frightening things for me and most people in my life is that the people creating the assault are among us. It is not some stranger from some other country coming and attacking our sense of what it means to be an American ... And my hope is we will get leadership to help overcome that. I will go over some coping skills but before I do that I want you to know that the optimist in me, first of all, we are the majority, more of us voted to not have that kind of leadership, and we didn’t win because of the way our electoral college is set up but we are the majority and that’s helping me to feel better...one of the things I’m doing to cope is to look for positive messages and look for some hope that’s the optimist in me.
This video was obtained illegally and action has been threatened by the teacher's union regarding the student who recorded the video. Joshua Martinez, president of the OCC Young Republicans, sees this possible action by the teacher's union as an attack, stating that, "Coast Federation of Educators, AFT Local 1911calls itself a union of professionals yet they have a professor like Olga Perez Stable Cox who they are willing to go to bat for and intimidate students for. It's time to drain the swamp Orange Coast College needs to clean up his act," via Facebook post. Also, in Professor Cox's syllabus, it even states that recording her is prohibited.
However, this video, posted by the president of OCC Young Republicans, was not as impromptu as it has been presented. According to a student, who wishes to remain anonymous, who was in attendance of an OCC Young Republican meeting, stated, "From what I remember, they began talking about how professors were reacting to the election." The student added, "They were laughing and talking about how stupid and immature it was for them to not come to class because they didn't like the results. [Their president] said that they shouldn't be doing that and that they should record them to present the videos to their lawyer." In a CBS LA video covering the story, Attorney Shawn Steel and Republican National Comittee man for California who is representing the OCC Young Republicans stated that "the unions are acting like thugs, like bullies... if you stand up to your professor 90% of the time the professor is gong to punish you."
Joshua Martinez, president of the OCC Young Republicans, was quoted in The Huffington Post article, which brings readers to question whether or not the video was truly anonymous as Martinez stated. According to the anonymous source, this seemed to be in the works based off of the account of the meeting that occurred before the video was recorded.
Students on campus have been buzzing since the story broke and some may now feel scared to express their views. "Olga Cox has her rights violated, to record someone without their consent and then face backlash from it, that's absolutely ridiculous," Stevie Vu, a student at OCC, said. "It is not something professors should be subjected to. Professors have said things that have directly offended me, but that is not something that I'm going to record and put on the internet."
Kaitlyn Hodge, president of the Planned Parenthood Generation Action club, stated that "the Orange Coast College Young Republicans Club advocates against safe spaces and for unconditional free speech. Yet, in the wake of this election, they need safe spaces from contrary views and want to have a professor punished for voicing the real actions of Donald Trump and Mike Pence. Apparently, if you voice opinions that they don't agree with, you'll be put on a national watch list." Professor Olga Cox can now be found on a professor watchlist, referencing the article that broke the story. Martinez also commented on this watchlist via Facebook and stated, "we need Professor Watchlist to make sure students know that teachers like this offer nothing but indoctrination in their curriculum. "
This controversy brings up the question of whether it is appropriate for teachers to bring their own opinions into the classroom. Some students believe she may have gone too far in some aspects and that it was not appropriate. However, college is a place for differing opinions, and these opinions help students grow. If someone doesn't believe what you believe, then it can either make students see a new perspective, or possibly strengthen their own views.
Either way, it is a learning experience, which is what college is all about. For a professor to have her rights violated because of talking about a relevant topic, then Orange Coast College is well on its way to becoming a place where students don't feel like they can freely voice their opinions, despite having a designated free speech zone on campus. When there is a club on campus that targets people for voicing their opinions, this creates an unsafe space and learning environment.
Protecting the rights of professors also protects the rights of students, and creates a campus that is all inclusive and tolerant, instead of hateful and silent.