Eliminate the “Support the Troops’ marquee

Using donated money for a personal or political platform is a mistake.

I love my country. I have family serving in Iraq. Because of this, when I saw “Support the Troops” scroll by on the marquee outside Williams Arena on Tuesday night, I knew silence would be unpatriotic.

Not surprisingly, this statement appeared between several other athletic accolades. Good. I expect to be encouraged to support the Gophers at the University. This is an appropriate use of public money. People enjoy the safe and constructive rivalry of college athletics. The Minnesota brand is a revenue-earner and it makes sense to hype it with a marquee.

It is profoundly disappointing to see that same marquee used to advance a political opinion. This is a gift from the taxpayers and alumni of Minnesota to college athletics. It is not the personal political platform of the public employee(s) who program the marquee. Using it to advance a political agenda is a mistake. Minnesota deserves better.

Some will claim that this statement outside the arena is no more political than the Pledge of Allegiance and national anthem which take place within the arena. But we all know from the earliest rhetoric that “support the troops” carefully has been made synonymous with “support the war.”

Regardless of the viewer’s politics, the statement is unambiguously understood to support the war, support present foreign policy and support the current administration. Unlike other traditions, the meaning of this statement is specific, immediate and political. That it was considered appropriate at all shows a troubling lapse of judgment.

Decisive action must be taken to address this situation. First, this political statement must be permanently removed. It is inconsistent with the University’s mission. Second, the personnel and procedures that resulted in this mistake must be held accountable.

Finally, the University must outline concrete steps that will reduce the likelihood of similar mistakes in the future.

With any luck, the traffic on University Avenue Southeast will see a marquee that respects the diversity of views that leads to academic excellence. Now that’s something Goldy can be proud of.

Adam Bahner is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]