Peterson said a male student “verbally assaulted her, kind of charged at her trying to intimidate her … and was held back by another student.”
She said the student prefers to remain anonymous but filed a complaint with campus security.
J.J. Akin, a spokesman for Gustavus Adolphus, a small, private, liberal arts college affiliated with the Lutheran Church, stressed that the incident was a verbal confrontation. Asked whether a male student was restrained by others, he said the dean of students was looking into it.
Akin sent a written statement from the college: “The Gustavus Adolphus College Dean of Students office is investigating a report of a verbal confrontation that took place Monday evening in which a student wearing Trump apparel was approached by another student.
“Gustavus Adolphus College respects the rights of students to engage in the political process and encourages all students — regardless of political affiliation — to contribute to civil dialogue in a thoughtful and respectful manner. As a liberal arts college, Gustavus is a community that values open discussion on a wide range of issues while affirming the rights and dignity of all people.”
Peterson, who is a senior at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, said it’s an example of how college Republicans are treated on campuses across the country, where liberal politics dominate among both students and faculty.
Trump supporters at some colleges have complained that their opinions, and the campaign, are dismissed as bigotry, while some opponents have countered that the candidate’s positions are intentionally divisive and are offensive to many.
At some schools, messages of support for Trump have been taken as attacks on certain groups — for example, when his slogans such as “Build a wall” are chalked near centers for Latino students. And sometimes simply writing his name in chalk has provoked objections from students.
Peterson said she had never seen an incident as serious as what happened at Gustavus, which she believes was a violation of state law, “but we experience it every day at other levels.” She said conservative students often feel that if they write a paper that shows their opinions, they might not get as good a grade as one written from a liberal perspective.
“You don’t want to raise your hand in class to give an opinion, because you don’t want the professor to think you’re conservative. I have a big Trump sticker on my laptop and I won’t take it out in class because I don’t want my professor to think differently of me. It’s something college students experience all the time.”
Members of a group supporting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment Wednesday. Alexander Shaikoski, co-president of the student government on campus, said he hadn’t heard from other students about the incident, but it was on his radar.
Nathan Dull, a member of the Gustavus Adolphus College Republicans, sent a written statement on behalf of the group, saying that they are “deeply disturbed” by the incident: “An individual shouted obscenities about the Republican nominee for president and threatened bodily harm against CR members.”
He wrote that they trust that the administration will handle the investigation so that no one would engage in similar behavior in the future: “This incident, however, will not shake the resolve of the Gustavus CRs. We will continue to be active on campus to promote conservative principles and policies and to faithfully and respectfully challenge the normative, institutionalized political biases on the Gustavus campus.”
Conrad Zbikowski, president of the Minnesota Young Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, shared a written statement Wednesday:
Monday night’s assault against a student on the Gustavus Campus wearing political apparel of their choice was an act of hate and completely contrary to the values of our generation.The Minnesota Young DFL affirms that assault in all its forms, no matter the motive, is reprehensible and that all people should be free and safe to express themselves, any political opinion, without fear of violence.This election has increased tensions across our country, but violence is never the answer. Violence only feeds cycles of hate.Violence is never the answer. Casting your ballot for the candidate of your choice is.