Rodrigue’s Coffeehouse (or “Rod’s” for short) is a staple of the Fordham community. A socially-conscious sanctuary on campus, strong with the ways of chic, organic, fair-trade joe at an affordable price. On a campus that culturally has more in common with Long Island and New Jersey, than that of Manhattan, it’s always been something of a bohemian novelty. If I ever had a complaint about Rod’s, it’s with the odd hours – after all, what coffee shop isn’t open in the morning when you really need a cup of joe? Alas, as of late it has come into the spotlight as a number of College Republicans were purportedly evicted from the premises due to their wearing Trumpish “Make America Great Again” hats.
On the one hand, the College Republicans are quite open that they were trying to be provocative. One College Republican member told Campus Reform that “We went there because we wanted to test the unwritten rule that conservatives were banned from that coffee shop.”
But what exactly did they do to provoke those in Rod’s, aside from wearing MAGA caps? According to Balasov, “It’s not like we’re here reading off a manifesto.” They weren’t loudly boasting about the glory of Trump’s America, they were just present. One of the co-presidents of Rodrigue’s herself said “You are threatening the integrity of our club. This is a community standard—you are wearing hats that completely violate our safe space policy.” She continued “You have to take it off or you have to go.” Fundamentally, it was not a matter of whether they were engaging in provocative behavior, but whether their very presence would be tolerated.
Wearing a MAGA hat in certain spaces is said to be like wandering into Yankee Stadium with a Red Sox cap – it just isn’t done. But does a Red Sox cap guarantee one eviction from Yankee Stadium? No. Does it require that somebody be verbally antagonized? No. The College Republicans violated a social taboo when they entered Rodrigue’s, but what place does such a taboo have in a school-sanctioned club? As a school-sanctioned club, the staff at Rodrigue’s isn’t in the position to be regulating attire and excoriating perspectives.
Here’s something to consider: if you step on a landmine knowing that it is there, you are very, very dumb. But it’s important to ask what kind of putz leaves a landmine lying around for somebody to step on?
At the very least the evicted ought to get an apology. It is heartening to see that the university is taking measures to investigate the incident. Discourse is becoming more and more polarized; we shouldn’t let political hostility complicate our lives any more than it already has. We need to have a world outside of politics, and local coffee shops ought to be a big part of our apolitical, everyday lives. If there are any changes in managerial policy and business practices at Rodrigue’s resulting from this situation, I hope they lead to a more open café environment and one that’s open in the morning – when we really need that morning hit of caffeine.