OCC Students Gather To Support (And Protest) Professor Taped Voicing Anti-Trump Speech

A crowd of about a hundred Orange Coast College (OCC) students gathered around noontime yesterday to show their support and criticism towards human sexuality professor Olga Perez Stable Cox, who voiced her anti-Trump sentiments during her class last week while an anonymous student taped her speech and posted the video online. The clip has since gone viral and Cox has left the state due to death threats. This marks the second time this year that anti-Trump speech on an Orange County college campus garnered nation-wide controversy and backlash. Back in May, a Univisión anchor dissed Trump during a commencement speech at Cal State Fullerton then was booed from the crowd.

Supporters of Olga Cox met on OCC's “free speech” quad. The grassy expanse is divided symmetrically by a concrete pathway—on the opposite side of the walkway, the Orange Coast College Republicans (OCCR) and other Cox protestors gathered, since they were triggered so hard.

Protestors were outnumbered by students showing solidarity for Professor Cox, but that didn't stop circles of political debates to gather in between the pathway. While none of the confrontations became violent, many were contentious.

Elias Altamirano, who helped organize the solidarity for Cox rally, is a former student of the profe and says that students are “here to support Olga and our professors here at OCC and they have the freedom to express their opinions in classrooms liberal or conservative…it doesn't matter, what happens in the classroom should stay in the classroom and opinions are there to take or leave.”

The rally was originally organized as a silent event but Cox supporters started chanting “OCC who do you protect?! Who do you serve?!” and “We support free speech, let teachers teach!” At one point, they started advising each other not to speak to members of the media—hmm…

The Orange Coast College Republicans played the video of Cox's anti-Trump speech through a laptop and amplifiers.

“I don't think the students [Cox supporters] understand the difference between academic freedom and free speech,” says 17-year-old Joshua Recalde-Martinez, an aspiring politician and field representative for dweeby Assemblyman Mathew Harper, OCC regional delegate to the Student Senate of California Community Colleges and President of the Orange Coast College Republicans. He posted the video given to him by an anonymous student on his Facebook account. “What actually happened in that classroom was a teacher bullying students by saying that the election of Donald Trump was an act of terrorism,” Recalde-Martinez says. “If it's an act of terrorism then who are the terrorists in that situation? Obviously, the supporters and voters that put him into office. We're not trying to say that free speech can't occur but there's a time and place for it and that classroom wasn't the time or place for that sort of inflammatory remarks.”

A large poster containing phrases of Cox's speech was displayed by the OCCR's booth. Cox's entire quote was too large to blow up on the poster but “the meat of it” is on there, according to Recalde-Martinez. Cox supporters argued that the poster took Cox's words out of context. You can watch the abbreviated video of Cox's speech below.

Recalde-Martinez also added that a “lawyer is currently investigating” accusations that Cox singled out Trump supporters in her classroom prior to her recorded anti-Trump speech.

Daelyn Daniloff, who was present during Cox's recorded speech, says such accusations are false. “She never asked them [Trump supporters] to stand up, she never did any of that.” According to Daniloff, Cox invited students to an event held by the Student Equity club to discuss their concerns about safe spaces due to a rise of hate crimes against minority groups in the wake of Donald Trump's victory.

“One student asked—he said— 'Is this meeting an open discussion, can any Republicans go or is it just for Democrats?'— she said anyone can go as long as they're respectful,” Daniloff says. “I think it's really disrespectful for someone to secretly record her…the student who recorded it just did it unknowingly and didn't allow Olga to have a discussion.”

According to Melissa Meyer, a former regional delegate to the Student Senate of California Community Colleges for OCC, four petitions were passed around during the rally: asking for the Orange Coast College Republicans to be disbanded because of “funding and club handbook violations”; the removal of Recalde-Martinez as regional delegate to the Student Senate for being “partisan” in his actions and for “out of line” behavior; the college to support freedom of speech in solidarity with Professor Cox; and for disciplinary action to be taken against the anonymous student who recorded Cox without her consent.

“We would welcome a discussion, [but] there was no discussion. What was done was done in secret against the law and was potentially premeditated,” says Meyers. “That student acted in violation of state law and if I feel like if you break the law then you deserve to receive those consequences. In fact, I feel like my Republican brothers and sisters are usually the ones calling for law and order, no? They're the people who feel like going outside the law is an inappropriate way to protest so I would ask them to take their own approach and apply that to their own lives.”

Recalde-Martinez along with the Orange Coast College Republicans and their attorney Shawn Steel, RNC committeeman and husband to Supervisor Michelle Steel, are demanding campus administration issue a statement saying they will not pursue disciplinary or legal action against the student who recorded Cox; a formal apology from Cox; a formal complaint put in the professor's file; and for Cox to undergo anger management classes.
“What student doesn't record nowadays?” Steel said to criticisms that Cox's student shouldn't have recorded her. “Everything in your life, it's expected and reasonable with three hundred students that somebody's going to be recording you,” he says, “this is a first amendment right case that deals with, can you record a professor's remarks and pass them out?”

California's wiretapping law requires “two-party consent”— although the law does get hazy when it comes to recording someone without their knowledge in a public or semi-public place. Here is a second video of Cox's speech released by OCCR just two days ago, nearly a week after they released the first video.

According to Rob Schneiderman, president of the Coast Federation of Educators, AFT 1911, Cox has left the state due to death threats since the video went viral. Schneiderman says Cox, who's a lesbian Latina, received an e-mail with a “picture of her house, with her address” along with other hateful messages. A substitute teacher will cover Cox's classes for the remaining week of the semester.

In between the side supporting Cox and the side criticizing her, a circle of OCC students debated among themselves about Cox, president-elect Donald Trump and other Left-versus-Right politics. “The real problem here is that conservative views are stifled on college campuses,” a member of OCCR said to an anti-Trump veteran. “Professors aren't trained on how to handle these types of discussions except for Political Science teachers,” says Kim Garrison a professor in the college's art department who suggested to a student from OCCR that Cox might have just been having a “bad day.”

“Make America Vape Again” was overheard in the crowd as a young college dude puffed large clouds of vape smoke and took in the spectacle of it all. The rally lasted from noon to 2p.m. yet the circles of open debates on the free speech lawn lasted past 4p.m. Hey, contentious or not, at least OC millennials got off their phones for a few hours to actually engage each other in discussion—am I right?

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