University of Miami Takes Away Anti-Al Golden Signs at Basketball Game

Coach Al Golden
Coach Al Golden
Photo by Stian Roenning

In the past decade, Donna Shalala and the University of Miami have gone out of their way to let students know that their institution is in full support of students' right to freedom of speech and other basic civil liberties, even releasing a press release in 2006, then again in 2011, that said as much.

Well it seems as if the university is just fine with students' opinions -- as long as they agree with them. A UM senior says arena security at a recent Canes basketball game confiscated his signs protesting embattled football Coach Al Golden.

Willy Herrera attended two basketball games at the Bank United Center last week and wanted to air his frustrations with the Hurricanes football program. So Herrera twice brought signs that contained no profanity, obscene messages, or anything else that might be deemed "a distraction to fellow fans." But both times he had his signs confiscated by arena security.

"At the first one, we had a "Bring Back Butch" sign in the student section for about five minutes, then Alfonso Restrepo, from athletics, came and took it, no questions asked. I asked why and his response was, 'It's our home court, we can't have that.' It made no sense to me." Herrera tells Riptide.

So Herrera tried again.

"This past Saturday I had two small pieces of paper that said "Fire Golden" and they were in my pocket mid-way through the second half when a security lady came and asked me what I had in my pocket. I gave them to her and she walked to a corner to examine it, then she came back and whispered in the ears of the two ushers, as if I was out of control," he says. "I didn't do anything obscene. No curse words. Nothing to negatively affect the experience of any fan. I don't curse or do inappropriate things."

(We've emailed UM spokespeople to ask for their version of the story; we haven't heard back but we'll update this post if we do.)

Twitter followers quickly pointed out Shalala's past strong press releases regarding student speech, including a 2006 document where she wrote: "Academic freedom requires an environment where intellectual pluralism and the free expression of ideas are embraced. The University of Miami, as an institution dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and charged with the duty of educating young adults from around the world, is committed to supporting the values of free speech, the rights of assembly and free association, and other basic civil liberties."

Herrera thinks the policy has either changed or doesn't apply when students are speaking out about the University's highest paid employee.

"I think they are trying to brush the fans' displeasure under the rug and act as if it is a non issue," he says. "It's upsetting when they say signs aren't allowed at the BUC, and there are other fans who have signs. The BUC rules do not mention anything about not being able to bring signs. Signs are a huge part of student sections. They shouldn't be censored as long as they are appropriate."

Billy Corben was the first to hear about this incident, and took to Twitter to express his disgust.

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