A student senator at Pitzer College sent an email to the entire campus this week denouncing a mural showing a handgun with flowers coming out of the barrel because, the student complained, the mural “is emotionally triggering” and reminds him of “how many Black lives have been taken away because of police brutality.”
Pitzer is a small, private college in Southern California where the cost for one year of tuition, fees and room and board is $63,880.
The complaining student, sophomore Gregory Ochiagha, blasted out his email missive on Monday morning, reports the Claremont Independent, a student newspaper.
“It’s truly in bad taste to have a large depiction of a gun in a dorm space — especially when students of color also reside there,” Ochiagha wrote.
“Now let’s imagine there were countless videos of white teenagers, white teenagers that look like you, or your brother or your sister, get shot to death by police officers,” the sophomore continued. “Imagine scrolling down Facebook everyday [sic] and seeing a new video of the same thing, over and over again. Really put yourself in that headspace. Then ask yourself whether it’s the brightest idea to have white teenagers, who have a very real fear of getting shot, see a large gun every time they want to get food from the dinning [sic] hall.”
“My Black Mental and Emotional Health Matters,” Ochiagha wrote, showing true expertise in capitalization. “I shouldn’t be reminded every time I leave my dorm room of how easy my life can be taken away, or how many Black lives have been taken away because of police brutality. This is emotionally triggering for very obvious reasons.”
The creator of the mural, Pitzer freshman Selena Spier, said she has plans to modify her art to appease Ochiagha.
“I spoke with Gregory earlier and we agreed on a modification that preserves the integrity of the original piece while avoiding any potentially triggering content,” Spier told the Independent.
“I have absolutely no right to decide whether or not my artwork is offensive to marginalized communities — nor does anyone else in a position of privilege, racial or otherwise,” the freshman added.
Another Pitzer student, freshman Jessica Folsom noted that a mural depicting a gun shooting out flowers is a message of peace.
“This mural is actually representative of a nonviolence movement to protest the Vietnam War in the 60s,” Folsom wrote, apparently in an email response to Ochiagha, according to the Independent.
“There’s a famous photo of a protester putting flowers in the barrel of a National Guardsman’s rifle and everything,” she also observed.
Still another student, sophomore Alessandra Elliott, suggested that Ochiagha’s claim of emotional triggering is a bit too much even for the notably leftist student body at Pitzer.
“I love our radical liberalism,” Elliott wrote. “However, I’m not in love with the trend of shutting down voices that don’t align with liberal ideologies.”
A Pitzer committee on aesthetics had previously approved Spier’s mural.
Pitzer is one of the Claremont Colleges — a consortium of five undergraduate schools located close to one another.
In October, the student senate at Pitzer College, flatly rejected a student’s proposal to establish a campus yachting club due to concerns that the name of the yacht club is offensive and “exclusive” — and “luxurious” and “classist,” and fails to support “queer and trans people of color.” (RELATED: Student Council At $63,880-Per-Year Private College Rejects Proposed Yacht Club As Too ‘Exclusive’)