my intern is refusing assignments because of her politics

A reader writes:

I am a curator at a large museum, and we are currently running a major special exhibition. There has been an enormous amount of public interest in the exhibition, and demand for tickets is very high.

Recently I was asked by my higher-ups to give a private tour of this exhibition to a prominent and controversial political figure. It’s not Trump, by the way (lots of people have asked!), but it *is* someone whose name would be nationally recognized.

I have a summer intern and have offered to let her come along as an observer. This kind of inclusion would usually be considered a major perk for an intern. But she is adamantly refusing, citing this gentleman’s political views and threatening to physically attack him if she is “forced” to be in his presence (although I’m hoping that she is rather tastelessly joking about that last part). She is also refusing to do any of the logistical or planning tasks that would normally fall to her, and that’s a problem as well.

Here’s the tricky part: I completely and totally agree with her opinion of this politician’s views and behavior. I have actually literally protested outside his office in the past. I’m not looking forward to spending any time in his presence. But my perspective is that my personal views aren’t relevant in these circumstances, and that a significant part of my job is representing my museum with dignity, even when I really don’t want to. I will never agree with this politician (nor he with me, probably) but I keep telling myself: at the very least, this is a good opportunity for us to showcase to him the value of well-funded cultural institutions.

I’ve told my intern she can sit this one out, but I feel like we need to have a conversation about this when the dust settles. I am very torn, though. As I alluded to above, I’m active in social justice work and various kinds of protests, but all on my own time; no one I work with is aware of my outside activities. I don’t want to force anyone to do something they don’t believe in, but I worry this young lady will be shooting herself in the foot if this is her stance in the long term. What advice would you give me?

Yes, talk with her. The way she’s handling this is juvenile and it doesn’t reflect well on her professionally, and I say that as someone with a deep appreciation for social justice activism (and possibly for her stance as well, just not the way she’s executing it).

It would be one thing if she’d said, “I feel very uncomfortable interacting with this person; would it be possible for me to sit this out?” Even that isn’t necessarily ideal, and you still might need to talk to her about what it means to work for an institution that welcomes all visitors and the benefits to the museum of not turning away people whose views might be at odds with those of its staff. But that would have been a reasonable way for her to handle it. But threatening to physically attack him? Even assuming she’s joking, that’s just an incredibly unprofessional thing for her to say in a work context, and she should probably think about whether she wants to normalize that type of response in our discourse more broadly. She might also benefit from contemplating whether she really wants any employee to be able to refuse to serve anyone they disagree with or find immoral — because that goes both ways, and people tend not to like it when it’s reversed on them.

That’s not to say that there isn’t room for people to act on their consciences at work. There is. But there’s a professional way to do that and an unprofessional way, and she’s choosing the unprofessional way. The professional way would be voicing her concerns, asking if they could be accommodated (not demanding it), realizing the answer might be “no” — and knowing that if it were, then at that point she’d need to decide if she felt strongly enough to leave the job over it.

So yes, talk with her. The fact that you share her views about this particular politician might give you more credibility when you do. (Or who knows, maybe she’ll just think you’re a sell-out.)

You could say, “We’re not in the business of deciding who can and who can’t tour our exhibits, and that’s a good thing because access to museums shouldn’t depend on individual employees’ personal viewpoints. I’d be outraged we turned someone away because they supported Issue X or Issue Y (insert issues here that you support), and I suspect you would be too. We’re on very dangerous ground if we let people say that their own personal views will determine who they do and don’t serve at work.”

You could also say, “It’s not that you can never take a stand on work based on principle. You can. But it’s a big deal to refuse to do parts of your job, and so if you do that, you need to be professional about it. That means raising your concerns in a mature manner, not threatening physical attacks, and asking if work-arounds can be found, not just assuming you can refuse and that’ll be that. Sometimes it might not be possible for you to be recused, and if that’s the case, you might need to decide if you’re willing to leave the job over it. But the way you handle moments of conflict at work will have a big impact on your professional reputation, and so here’s why you’d want to approach this differently in the future…”

All that said … there are people whose actions are so directly harmful to others that I can understand why someone might take the stand your intern is taking. Sometimes our morals do compel us to stand up and say, “No, I will not act as if this normal because it is profoundly wrong.”

But it’ll be helpful to her if she learns how to do that in a way that maximizes her chances of getting the outcome she wants, and without hurting her own standing in the meantime. And of course, sometimes something is important enough that it’s worth hurting your own standing! I don’t mean to imply that professionalism is the be-all, end-all, because there are other things that are more important. But it’ll help her to learn to figure out when she has no choice but to take that hit, and when there are more effective paths to achieve what she wants.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 1,309 comments… read them below }

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Some points that seem worth making up top:

      * We don’t know who the politician is. There are a lot of assumptions below that the person is comparable to a Nazi, but the letter doesn’t indicate that. It’s helpful to take that into account when commenting.

      * We don’t know if the tour for the politician is a “roll out the red carpet because you are special” tour or if it’s a private tour to avoid disruption to other patrons (which is a common thing to do for high-profile figures, not as a way of honoring them but as a way of minimizing chaos).

      1. arts chicka*

        One of my parents used to have to give these kinds of private tours a lot. They are really really common at museums.

        I also should add that the museums (especially high profile ones) have to be careful to remain neutral with politics. If they have done these kinds of private tours for other politicians, then they really need to do it for the other side too. Museums are 501c3s and there are all kinds of laws about stepping into politics.

        Finally, their might be value in introducing this politician to this museum. Potentially this person might change their mind on funding for NEA, NEH, Smithsonian Institution, etc. You don’t know what affect this visit could have.

        1. Red 5*

          Exactly this. I work for a place that receives federal funding and we have to walk a very fine, very thin line of neutrality because our livelihoods literally depend on making sure that when it comes time to vote, the people who are voting remember us as being helpful and useful. That’s beyond our legal obligations.

          We’ve dealt directly with people who have said and done things that have caused harm to people I love dearly, and while I’ve been able to avoid dealing with them directly, I’ve done my job when necessary.

          Because I want to continue to have a job and because I believe in what my organization does.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, there are overtly political comments all over the comment section, which I suppose was inevitable. I’ll remove the worst of it that I see, but I’m not going to see everything.

      I’m strongly requesting that people take into account the two points above, but I’ll also hereby warn anyone venturing into the comments that Here Lie Politics.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          If it helps at all, I’ve agreed with your comments on this post, and for the sake of my own bp, I have refrained from jumping in. Also because it feels like shouting at a wall.

      1. Annie Moose*

        I feel like everyone has said everything they want to say at this point; people are getting VERY repetitive (e.g. the same people saying the same thing fifteen different threads). It might be time to consider closing comments?

      2. Amber Rose*

        Thanks as always for your hard work, and also for giving us a place to discuss this stuff.

      3. asleep or maybe dead*

        Thank you for your hard work, Alison. Besides the solid professional advice, I lurk here because of your awesome work as moderator.
        I apologize for being so nose-y, but do you think a timer for comments would be beneficial?
        There are dozens of bait-y inflammatory comments made by the same users in multiple threads. A timer usually helps to curb troll behaviour and reduce the admin/mod workload.

          1. Specialk9*

            Oh, it wasn’t up when I started posting. I must have been down the page when I refreshed and not seen it.

  1. JokeyJules*

    This is going to be one of those life lessons that sometimes you have to put aside views and be a professional. Hopefully she is able to separate opposing views (and i realize completely how hard that can be) and continue as a professional.
    Perhaps a reminder that acting aggressively and violently will not truly help her cause would help…

    1. Luna*

      Yeah I have very little patience for these kinds of antics, since as Alison says it goes both ways, and I would rather not have it become normal to refuse to do your job/provide services to someone because of your “conscience”- because honestly that logic is more often used against progressives than for them. We should be working to push back on it, not engage in it ourselves.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        Me either. However, I disagree with Alison’s advice. I’d just fire her. Totally unacceptable, stunningly unprofessional, and a full-blown deal breaker. To me, it doesn’t matter what side of the political fence you’re on, or who the person is. I’d just cut her loose immediately.

        1. Anonymouse*

          But this is an intern and what is an internship but learning how the working world works. I think Alison’s advice is spot on and its worth having a conversation with the intern and presenting a different side.

          1. Hills to Die on*

            A conversation is fine, but if there weren’t an immediate turnaround, she’d be out if she worked for me.

            1. Seriously?*

              Yeah. Because it is an intern I would tell her that it is unacceptable to threaten violence (even as a joke) or to refuse to do parts of her job. She can turn down the opportunity to observe since it is a perk, but should still do the logistical and planning work just as she would in any other situation. If she refuses to back down I would let her go.

              1. Lara*

                We live in a world where pharmacists can refuse to prescribe harmless and legal medicine ‘Cos religion’. Davis was allowed to refuse service to gay couples purely due to being a raging homophobe. Plenty of people refuse to do bits of their job and get away with it.

                1. Hills to Die on*

                  I think those are wrong too. If you are specifically hired to do a certain job, then do it with professionalism and grace or find something else. Just my opinion.

                2. Lara*

                  In practice though, Hills to Die On, it seems only a certain type of person gets to have their morals respected, while minorities are expected to ‘play nice’ and be the ‘bigger person’.

                3. Sleepy Librarian*

                  While I definitely don’t agree with the idea of those professions being allowed to not do their jobs (especially the pharmacist), ethics 101 for information institutions like libraries or museums is that we’re there for everyone. I think that’s a reality that this intern needs to learn. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room to bring her beliefs into her work, but if an information institution picks and chooses who gets access, they’re no better than the people they’re trying to deny access.

                4. Luna*

                  Which is exactly the problem, and should be pushed back on, not “well they do bad thing so I can do bad thing too so there”

              2. EditorInChief*

                Agree 100%. I would give her a pass on observing, but let her go if she refused to do the other parts of her job or otherwise act in an unprofessional manner.

          2. New Job So Much Better*

            Learning how the working world works, yes, but I would have fired her at the first mention of violence.

        2. Socks*

          I think in past years or more normal situations that would be true, but right now we have actual fascists back in a prominent position in politics and it’s becoming increasingly hard to treat politics as anything but a moral issue capable of trumping professionalism. Anyway, internships are exactly where you learn professional norms, and I don’t think it just goes without saying that you can’t talk about wanting to punch a Nazi at work, for example. The ethics of punching Nazis is not yet a settled debate among even, like, polite society, let alone intern-aged kids.

          1. Nea*

            If I read correctly, Intern threatened violence as a member of museum staff to a museum visitor while at the museum.

            Whether punching Nazis as an overall concept is moral or immoral is a concept rapidly disappearing in the rear view mirror when the topic is actually “representative of organization becomes violent inside organization’s facility while actively representing said organization.”

            1. foolofgrace*

              I might be afraid that the intern might throw red paint on the political figure, or something like that, depending on how militant her views were.

            2. I See Real People*

              It would be worth a call to the authorities as well. This kind of protest is still, as it always has been, criminal.

                1. Bea*


                  But we’ve learned that laughing extremist comments off and not reporting it can be terrible in the event she does do something drastic.

                  You can’t threaten violence on political figures. That’s how people are harmed. Everything should be taken as a real threat.

              1. Nea*

                I wouldn’t go so far as to call authorities, but any employer has the obligation to protect itself from an employee breaking the law on company time. This isn’t individual protest on personal time.

                A lot of this conversation is conflating those two very different circumstances.

        3. JokeyJules*

          I think I would present it to her as “you can’t refuse to do your work because you disagree with someone’s politics, it is unprofessional and illustrates a variety of other issues, but if you continue to refuse, I have to let you go, whether I agree with the reasons behind it or not.

        4. ITisnotEZ*

          It seems that Allison agrees that a line should be drawn re: acceptable political view vs. unacceptable. Just disagreeing where the line is- “All that said … there are people whose actions are so directly harmful to others that I can understand why someone might take the stand your intern is taking. Sometimes our morals do compel us to stand up and say, “No, I will not act as if this normal because it is profoundly wrong.”’

          If that’s how someone feels, I think the only moral choice is to step down and move away from the role. If your moral /political views won’t allow you to perform a required task, choosing not to do that task while remaining part of the organization is not an option. The same argument applied to that county official in KY that refused to issue a marriage license for the gay couple. Do your job, and if you can’t do it in good conscious, then step down.

          1. Political consultant*

            That advice is fair when you’re a career government employee tasked with implementing policy. Giving a one-off museum tour, not so much.

            1. Fiennes*

              Exactly. This is not asking the intern to implement or support policies she doesn’t believe in. This is asking her to do the exact same thing she’d do on any other tour, and to behave with a modicum of self-control.

              1. Chinookwind*

                As well, she has no way of knowing the political views of other visitors, just this one. Does that mean she will ask each visitor after this for their opinion on an issue and then deem them worthy of her services? Or, if she doesn’t, will she suddenly stop a tour if she hears them say something (non-rude/non-threatening) that she does not agree with? How would she feel if she was the one stating their political view and then refused service?

                I think she needs the OP to point out the slippery slope she heading down.

                1. Amber T*

                  There’s a big difference between questioning everyone who passes by and standing on a podium and proclaiming your views to the world.

              2. Political consultant*

                But you’re missing my point (or perhaps I didn’t make it clearly): the intern is under no obligation to resign in the way that (say) a diplomat would be. The intern *is* being eminently reasonable in refusing the give the VIP tour.

            2. Tangerina*

              Disagree. I think the advice applies to any situation. Every person has to decide where their own line is. If selling an item that is purple is considered completely reprehensible to a person, they are well within their rights to quit a job requiring them to sell purple teapots. And hopefully they can find a job in which they never have to interact with purple things.

              And if they cannot find such a job, they are well within their right to figure out how to live life without a “job.”

              You and I find that ridiculous. But if it’s important enough to our imaginary person, then it’s fair.

            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Why does the level of your job make a difference? If someone’s views are so abhorrent and immoral to you that you believe they are relatively universal, why would a career government employee have more “authority” to refuse and resign than a barista, a gas station attendant, or an intern?

              1. Doreen*

                I don’t think the idea is that the government employee has more “authority” to resign , but rather that the government employee who is being asked to implement a policy or support something that they are morally opposed has more of a responsibility to resign than the barista who finds a customer’s views abhorrent.

              2. Political consultant*

                The civil service is tasked with implementing executive branch policy regardless of the party in power.

          2. Hills to Die on*

            I thought of that too–that KY thing was a mess. Same deal. I know many people don’t agree, but if you are paid to do a job, then do it. If you can’t do it, find a new job.

          3. Sara without an H*

            Yes, it can be an act of principal to resign rather than do certain things. To stay and refuse to do the work is unprofessional and definitely unfair to co-workers, who may have to take on extra work to cover.

          4. Lara*

            The state actually allowed her to not provide marriage licenses to gay couples. Her hissy fit was about the fact that her assistant was still doing so.

            1. Engineer Girl*

              And there’s the difference. If you can’t get a marriage license you can’t get married. At all. That’s different than a pharmacist or a baker that could refer you to someone else that could perform the service.

              1. Lara*

                And also that the State worked out what they probably thought was an admirable compromise; Davies didn’t have to contravene her beliefs, LGBT folk could still get married. Davies lawsuit was basically challenging the idea that gay couples could get married at all.

          5. Yet Even Another Alison*

            I don’t know how long it is going to take until the human race finally wraps their brain around the fact that sexuality – that is whether you are homosexual or heterosexual – is something that you are born with – no different than being born with white skin or black skin. People say homosexuality is a choice but it is not. You are naturally attracted sexually to your own sex or you are not. You can act another way – and as we know from countless people – be miserable in the constant denial of who you are – but – why should you? To appease someone else who thinks you are wrong? What are you doing to them that is so awful? Science tell us this – yes, remember science?

            1. anon4now*

              I mean, I agree with you but who even cares if it’s a choice or not? I mean, technically bisexual people make a choice to be with either gender but honestly, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a choice or even perceived as “natural” or “unnatural” by lawmakers hundreds of years ago.
              It’s pretty obvious restricting gay marriage is a control thing, not a moral issue or even a religious one.

              1. General Ginger*

                I wouldn’t phrase it as we make a choice to be with either gender. Neither me, nor bi people I know pick their partners by gender.

            2. Julia*

              I agree with you, but considering there are people who discriminate against people with different skin colors as well, I’m not sure “it’s innate” will do much good as an argument. :(

        5. QualitativeOverQuantitative*

          I think this is an unnecessarily hard line to take with an intern. But, I also wonder if where the LW lives plays into this at all. My assumption is that LW works for the Smithsonian and is therefore based in DC. We’re a partisan town, and that’s putting it nicely. I think something like this is more likely to happen here and be understood.

          1. Specialk9*

            Those are a whole string of assumptions. I made them too! Then I remembered that I’ve been to museums all over the world, and in all of those countries there are controversial male politicians who are not Voldemort.

        6. Not Rebee*

          I’m not on the train to fire her, but I do think it’s time for a very serious performance conversation, and not just about how professional she is or isn’t being. Intern or not, OP has said that she is refusing to complete tasks that would ordinarily fall to the intern as part of her job. I agree that the intern, if she feels that strongly about it, should feel able to request a pass for this particular instance, and agree that she should be prepared to hear no, but I think OP should address not only that but that such duties are part of the intern’s job and that if she is unable to do them she is not performing at an acceptable level. If required to do them, she would then need to shape up or ship out (though declining a perk shouldn’t count against her). And if she allows the intern to sit out, OP should be prepared to have this happen again. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of prominent figures in politics from both sides of the aisle that lots of people disagree with, so really you’d get a 50% chance that the intern would decline to assist with whoever you have.

      2. Bones*

        I mean… it doesn’t always go both ways. A radically left-leaning socialist is a far, FAR cry from a skinhead, for example.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Exactly. You cannot put “Oh, she supports higher taxes” on the same level with “Oh, he thinks that everyone who looks like me should die”.

          1. Bones*

            Yep! I don’t like false equivalencies that legitimize truly repugnant views by making them merely “distasteful” and therefore ultimately forgivable.

            1. Amber T*

              False equivalencies was the phrase I was looking for earlier and my coffee-depleted brain could not find it. Yes exactly. I will happily have a civil conversation with anyone regarding how taxes should be used, whether you agree or disagree with me. I will not stomach conversations with those who believe others are not people and I will fight that tooth and nail, and damn it to hell if anyone thinks I need to be civil about it.

          2. Czhorat*

            My thoughts exactly.

            And if this politician is on the truly harmful side of the divide then I understand the intern not wanting to work to support their visit.

            The intern has the least power of anyone in this situation. THat they are willing to use what little power they do have to make a statement for something in which they believe is, in a way, impressive.

            1. TRexx*

              Responding with violence against another person because of their political stance isn’t commendable or acceptable. The fact that the manager has the same view should not play a role in the “learning conversation” with the intern, it’s irrelevant. I would be surprised if a museum / cultural institution didn’t have a policy about how to work through these situations …

          3. me*

            Yes, but ” She supports higher taxes” is not as far left as one can go. There have been many far left groups who engage in violence and terroristic tactics. I think the idea that only far right groups engage in despicable behavior is probably simplifying it a bit too much.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              Sure, but there is also a difference between engaging in violence and passing harmful legislature. I don’t condone violence on any side, but I am unaware of any far left policies that are equivalent to ‘your life doesn’t matter’.

                1. Lemon Sherbet*

                  I see anti-choice policies as the far right telling women “your life doesn’t matter.”

                2. No*

                  Abortion rights exactly insure that women’s lives matter.
                  Contrary to people like you who believe a mass of cells have more value.

                3. Specialk9*

                  Oh for heaven’s sake, are you really baiting the abortion argument? That goes nowhere fast, online and in person.

              1. Not Yet Looking*

                Teaching moment: “Your life doesn’t matter” is literally how some of my farther left-leaning business-owning friends see raising taxes to pay for social services. I strongly disagree with their viewpoint, but their viewpoint IS sincerely held by them. And no, they don’t seem to understand that “a tax hike on your six figure income” is not the same impact on them as being put out on the street to starve is to those the Left are trying to help.

                1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                  That’s a right-leaning economic view, whatever their views are on social issues though

                2. Czhorat*

                  That’s not at all a logically defensible viewpoint.

                  The extreme right, at present, includes ultra-nationalism, racism. Modern-day Nazis are of the right.

                  There is no equivalent on the extreme left.

                3. Yet Even Another Alison*

                  Abortion politics has often times very little to do with the life of the fetus. It has to do with the oppression of women and keeping them burdened with the only job many on the right think women are fit to do – raise children. And limiting women’s financial options – after all, it took a loooong time for women to have any rights in the workplace or any career options at all. Just think what would happen if employers could refuse to hire women for any important or significant roles because if the inability for a woman to control her fertility. Yes, I jumped a bit here – first it is abortion to outlaw and criminalize, then it will be birth control. Women better wake up.

              2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                Much as I disagree with it on a variety of levels, the anti-choice/pro-life movement does believe that pro-choice people are telling fetuses that their lives don’t matter.

            2. KHB*

              If museum staff also want to deny a VIP tour to a member of a far-left group who engages in violence or terrorist tactics, I for one would be perfectly fine with that.

            3. Yorick*

              We’re talking about politicians here, not terrorist groups that may have political motivations

                1. Yorick*

                  But we don’t know that this politician supports anything that would be similar to violence.

            4. BWooster*

              I still think there’s false equivalence. People who use violence to stop the spread of Nazism for example, are not really morally equivalent to Nazis who use violence. I don’t think we’re doing anyone any favors by equating the two.

        2. Anon for this #533*

          I’m not quite sure what you meant by “doesn’t always go both ways.” I interpreted it as referring to aggression and violence only being on one side of the political spectrum (skinhead v radical socialist).

          If that’s the case, that’s not accurate. The Weather Underground Organization leaned radically far left with quite a few well-known bombings in the 60s and 70s, as just one example.

          I’m not trying to get political; this one’s charged enough. That’s why I used an older example.

          I’m also guessing that’s not what you meant. Could you please clarify?

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I’ll just paraphrase Sarah Vowell that once you go far enough left and right and distill your sentiment down to a bumper sticker, often you can’t tell which side generated the sticker.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            Beat me to it. It’s entirely possible to promote benevolent ideals in harmful ways. Let’s not be simplistic.

          3. Autumnheart*

            The main difference here being that one of the sides promoting violence and aggression is currently in the White House and Congress. When we elect a member of the Weather Underground president, you’d have an accurate picture of the proportionality.

          4. Bones*

            One is an inherently dangerous belief expressed violently, the other is a non-dangerous belief being supported through dangerous means. In my mind, the former is far worse (which is not to say there’s nothing wrong with the latter).

          5. AKchic*

            Currently, we have both far-leaning sides claiming the other is fascist / Nazi. The “alt-left” is called “antifa”, but because they are socialist leaning (or democratic socialist), with the “socialist” name and the propaganda against socialism in America, and the Nazi party using socialism within their name, people use word association to label them Nazis.

            On the other side, you have literal white supremacists marching in the streets. Some chanting similar rhetoric that literal Nazis chanted decades ago. Calling for the separation of races, the “purity of blood”, and for some, they even gleefully discuss the extermination of anyone not straight, white, and their chosen religion.

            Both sides are extreme. Neither represent the majority. However, the majority isn’t exactly calling the right extreme out and it is emboldening them, and they are recruiting. My own 1st ex-husband is one of these types, and has been for over two decades, which is why I know a lot about how they think and operate, and just how common it is for them and how often “regular people” enable them by either ignoring the negativity (“we don’t want to encourage him!”) or indulging and joking around as well (“it’s just joking around!”).

            1. BWooster*

              “Currently, we have both far-leaning sides claiming the other is fascist / Nazi. The “alt-left” is called “antifa”, but because they are socialist leaning (or democratic socialist), with the “socialist” name and the propaganda against socialism in America, and the Nazi party using socialism within their name, people use word association to label them Nazis.”

              People who call AntiFa (there’s no need for quotes, that’s what they’re actually called.) Nazis are doing so to score political points. In contrast to people who call Nazis and Fascists “Nazis and Fascists” which is nothing but stating a fact.

          6. serenity*

            The Weather Underground is a 40-50 year old story, and not analogous at all to someone (or a group of people) with actual political power to enforce horrible legislation.

            Can we all drop the political back-and-forth, as Alison requested? I fear this page is going to be full of inaccurate or misleading claims otherwise, and responding to the OP’s inquiry doesn’t necessitate litigating acceptable political ideologies or practices.

          7. Yorick*

            I interpreted “it goes both ways” as meaning that one museum may refuse to give Trump a tour, but another museum may refuse Obama. So it illustrates that we shouldn’t deny services that should be available to all based on political views.

        3. Working Mom Having It All*

          I think who this person is would make all the difference.

          When I was an outspoken college leftist, George W. Bush was in town. A lot of past presidents had come to my workplace at the time, which was also a museum. I was definitely sweating what I would do in this intern’s situation, and I had basically decided I would quit my job if it came to it.

          In hindsight, this looks relatively silly, because while Dubya was not one of our better presidents, and his politics don’t in any way align with mine, 18 years later we have literal fascists in office. We are now in a time when, no, it is NOT silly or immature to refuse to cater to the whims of certain political officials. It is morally the right thing to do. The alarming trend towards open fascism in this country would be over tout de suit if ordinary people simply refused to stand for it. “I was just doing my job” is no longer an acceptable excuse.

          Now, we don’t know who the person in question is. If it were Pence, or Sarah Huckabee Sanders, or Mitch McConnell, I have to say that I would share this intern’s attitude. And I’m a mid-career professional in my late 30s. But then again, if we’re talking about Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA), who I can’t stand but who isn’t currently putting babies in concentration camps, well, yeah, I go to work, do my job, privately bitch to my husband about what an ignoramus that guy is, and live to fight another day.

          TL;DR: It depends who the person in question is, but yes, there are some people in this country who should not be dealt with fairly simply because it’s your job to.

      3. Jadelyn*

        I read something about this the other day that has stuck with me, and I’d like to share it as a counterpoint to the idea that it’s bad to normalize refusing services for reasons of conscience. It’s not as simple as “it goes both ways”.

        The people equating what happened at Red Hen and things like the Colorado bakery case are missing the difference between prejudice and judgment. Prejudice is a pre-judgment of someone based on inherent qualities about their person (race, gender, queerness, etc). This is obviously bad, and is not something we want to be okay with refusing service based on.

        However, there’s a difference between prejudice – pre-judging someone based on who they are – and judgment – responding to someone based on the things they’ve done. The Red Hen incident was the latter; the anti-gay bakery was the former. And this is a critical distinction that is being lost in the overzealous calls for Civility and Politeness to be extended to those who actively, openly hate and harm so many of us simply for daring to exist in what they see as their world. I’m not okay with someone citing prejudice to refuse service to queer people or people of color, but I am 1000% okay with someone saying “Hey, you have done really bad and harmful things to me and my community and I don’t want you here.” It’s the difference between “I don’t like what you are” and “I don’t like what you’ve chosen to do.”

        1. galatea*

          thank you for this comment; I agree 100% (and frankly rather resent the implication in calls for “civility” that existing in the world while being lgbt is equivalent to ripping toddlers away from their families and putting them in cages)

          1. Bones*

            (and frankly rather resent the implication in calls for “civility” that existing in the world while being lgbt is equivalent to ripping toddlers away from their families and putting them in cages)

            + a million. People who value arbitrary ideas about politeness over the dignity of human beings can kick rocks

        2. Naptime Enthusiast*

          +1. This is an important distinction that I feel people on either end of the political spectrum either don’t understand or ignore because it is easier to make their point.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Kindly don’t use my comment as a launching point for your “both sides!!!” hand-wringing. I am a full-out leftist and antifa so…really not okay with the whole “either end of the political spectrum” false equivalencies. I have yet to see anyone but right-wingers and the “But Civility” moderates ignore that distinction; the far left are the ones making that distinction and trying to put that out there for people to understand why there’s a difference between them denying us service for existing, and us denying them service because they’re hurting us.

        3. Luna*

          Except that plenty of people use “judgement” and “conscience” as a reason to refuse to provide medication or certain medical services, because they don’t agree with what the patient is choosing to do. That is still not okay- it’s your job to provide the requested services, and I really am not interested in your individual judgments or conscience.

          1. Aveline*

            This isn’t that type of service. This is special treatment. For free.

            It’s like doing a nose job for free because he’s a VIP.

            They aren’t refusing to admit him to the museum. The issue is giving him special, coddled treatment

            1. Luna*

              I don’t think giving private museum tours to people in certain positions is that unusual of an occurrence. Especially if said person has a say in allocating additional funds to the museum.

                1. Luna*

                  I’m not even sure what the point of this comment is. I’m not someone in a high up position, or a large donor, so the need for a private tour would not apply to me.

                  People seem obsessed with the idea that a private tour confers some sort of honorable status on the politician, when really it’s more about showcasing the work of the museum and trying to garner support for the museum from someone who has influence. For institutions that rely on public, political and donor support it’s really not that unusual.

                2. fposte*

                  @Luna–yes, I’ve had private tours just because I’m friendly with somebody working there or because I was at a paid event in the venue. I think there’s probably a lot of variation on how big a deal a private tour is, but tours outside of the standard museum hours or public collections aren’t uncommon.

              1. Ellochka*

                This situation happened at the museum I work for. Famous politician with xenophobic views directly against the mission and everyday work of our institution requested a private look at very-important-artifact. Refusing entry to the museum as a normal patron would be unethical and also against the mission of our institution, but we did consider saying no to a private visit. It was a little different in that it wasn’t a private tour of the galleries, but involved special access “backstage.”

                Funding was a large reason we said yes. The curator wasn’t comfortable handling the tour as she usually would, so the directors of the the museum and the department did it.

                1. Aveline*

                  Yes, this isn’t usual.

                  It should be handled and directed by the higher-ups with a lot more care than seems to be showing here.

            2. Working Mom Having It All*

              This is another really good point.

              Is it really this intern’s “job” to participate in this? Is it even the museum’s “job” to give this person a free VIP tour? If we’re talking about, for example, the local congresscritter who happens to belong to a political party the intern doesn’t belong to, and this guy is on whatever committee decides budget allocations for arts funding, I would say, OK, kid, it’s time to grow up and understand that we’re all just people here and this is how the sausage is made. If it’s Mike Pence dropping in and expecting the grand tour based on his personal VIP status (a la the Hamilton debacle), or worse, potentially a PR stunt where he’s going to flamboyantly walk out of some exhibit he disagrees with to score culture war points, then no, it is not the intern’s job to tag along on the tour (or call in the post-tour lunch order, or make copies of the itinerary, or whatever actual job duties would pertain to this). Anymore than it is the museum’s duty to provide such a tour. Those are courtesies, not hard and fast requirements.

            1. Luna*

              How so? Both are examples of people refusing to do their jobs because of their individual beliefs. Both are not okay.

          2. Jadelyn*

            That’s a different situation. In those cases, we’re talking about which services one will provide; in this kind of case, we’re talking about who one will provide services to at all. It’s a conversation worth having, but it’s not a counter-argument to the ability of someone to stand their ground and say “You and yours have hurt me and mine, and I will not have anything to do with you.”

        4. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          Exactly. It’s the difference between “I’m not having those people in my restaurant. They are not even human” and “I’m not having Gary in my restaurant. Gary is a bad man.”

        5. HateIsHate*

          Gay is what someone is. Gay marriage is a choice someone makes. The fact that you and I may have made that choice does not change that fact.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Wrong. “Gay marriage” is not some kind of separate unique choice. Marriage, period, is a choice someone makes. Denying a service you provide to all people who have chosen to get married, is denying service based on their actions/choices – weird, but okay, you do you I guess.

            But if you provide services to married couples in general, but you’re denying those services to specifically the queer couples who have chosen to get married, you’re back to doing it based on what someone is, not the choice they’ve made, since you’ve demonstrated that “marriage” isn’t the choice you have a problem with – “queer” is the identity you have a problem with.

        6. Chinookwind*

          I think you misunderstand the Colorado bakery case. The owner was more than happy to serve the LGBT couple (and happily for years before hand), he just refused to provide a cake with a message he didn’t support (in the same way another baker may refuse to create a cake with the phrase “Make America Great.”) He even offered to give them a generic cake or cupcakes that they could have decorated elsewhere. And he was willing to lose a portion of his business to do so (in the same manner he wouldn’t create Halloween and Divorce celebration cakes).

          The Red Hen case, though, was about a employees refusing to serve a customer in any way/shape/form based on their occupation/manager and the owner was willing to back them up and lose any business that may go with it.

          In the OP’s case, the intern is making the same decision as the Red Hen’s employee’s but, in this case, her boss (the OP) is not willing to suffer the potential consequences that would fall on the organization based on the intern’s actions. Like any boss, the OP has more information and is responsible for the bigger picture and has to balance the cost to the organization (both financial and moral)vs. the impact such a boycott of services may have.

          1. TardyTardis*

            However, there was a physician in Indiana who refused to provide services to an infant because they didn’t approve of the lesbian mothers. There are women unable to get proper medication because the pharmacist doesn’t think she’s moral enough (while still filling all the Viagra prescriptions, of course).

            Where do we draw the line?

          2. Hapless Bureaucrat*

            The problem with the analogies here is that neither the bakery nor the cafe is publicly funded, or has an explicit mission to serve the public. Most museums do.

            If the museum us publicly-funded at least in part by government dollars, there’s so much less leeway to refuse to serve a member of the public. Even for special requests, if you’d normally give them to other members. I’m sympathetic to the intern, I admit, and if I were the intern I MIGHT ask why is it unacceptable for us, given the other cases. But it’s because the museum’s public mission is a constraint.
            Now, if the museum is mostly funded by donors and foundations explicitly to provide a mission of education and access to groups that this politician puts in danger– and that’s possible!– then the calculus changes again. Violence and the way the intern expressed herself are still not professional, but the museum has more leeway to make decisions about who it lets in the door.

            Which is a hard thing for public sector employees to learn, and sometimes we all chafe at it. And it would be doing the intern a service to help her understand that now. She may not want to continue on this career path.

        7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Jadelyn, this is my second *dreamy sigh* in less than a week!

          (Thank you for this.)

        8. Wanda*

          I see and respect the distinction you’re making. However, I think protesting people as they go about their private activities is always too far. For context, when I was younger, I worked with mice in a research lab. There was a lot of animal rights activism going on where one of my friends lived. Protesters would do things like demonstrate loudly in front of researcher’s houses, write things on their sidewalks, etc. From the activist point of view, of course, they were literally protesting incarceration and mass murder (of mice and rats, who they saw the same as people), so all this was justified. From my point of view, they were needlessly terrorizing folks who were trying to figure out how diseases work.

          The other thing is that these types of protests escalate. Someone had a group of people wearing black masks break into their house during an event for their kids, and one of the people I worked with a bomb thrown in his house. I’ve heard lots of people who don’t support animal research say things like, well of course I don’t support bombing people’s houses. But I think that the lines should be drawn well away from acts that kill people.

          1. Julia*

            I don’t think anyone here said that harming people was okay.
            I also think there’s a difference between protesting animal testing and protesting bigotry.

        9. peachie*

          This is really well-articulated–I strongly agree with the premise but hadn’t been able to put into words so succinctly.

          1. Jadelyn*

            It was a post I saw going around the other day on tumblr – cannot for the life of me remember the username though. I scrolled back through my own blog for a bit (since I know I reblogged it) but couldn’t find it, it was already too far back.

      4. Globetrotta*

        It doesn’t go both ways, because presumably she is upset about a person with power who is doing the thing she finds abhorrent and who would not be at the museum for a VIP tour if he was not in this position of power, not Joe and Jane Visitor who may hold these views but a) aren’t at the museum because of them and b) not publicly displaying them.

        This is also the difference between refusing to serve a person makes a choice to who lie to the nation daily and someone who is just living their life.

    2. Moth*

      I agree, though with the caveats that have been stated well by others. The first thing that comes to my mind is the Hamilton performance that Mike Pence attended. The cast and crew of the performance did not refuse to do their jobs, even though they knew he would be there and that the administration he is a part of was taking stances that could be personally damaging to many of them. However, they still found a way to deliver a message that they felt he needed to hear. I’m not sure how the employees in this specific situation might be able to do something similar without it hurting their careers (maybe it would, maybe it wouldn’t), but perhaps there is a way that they could also do their jobs without compromising their own values. Also, a point to note is that usually museums are intended to be educational. Is there a way to focus on this? That their goal is to educate this person in a way that the person might not otherwise receive? Just spitballing some thoughts here, since I realize this is a more complicated topic than can be summed up in my paragraph of a response!

      1. AMPG*

        Another good example is when “Fox and Friends” went to Williamsburg to hear a Thomas Jefferson interpreter read from the Declaration of Independence, and the chosen excerpts were clearly thoughtfully chosen to draw parallels between King George and the current leadership.

      2. Aveline*

        That’s different. He paid to attend. No different than the general public

        This is a VIP tour. Special treatment.

        Would you have expected the Hamilton cast to give Pence a cloying backstage tour? Perform a number or toe just for him w/o him paying? Because that is what would be the equivalent here.

        1. Annie Moose*

          Do we know that the unnamed figure is actually getting the tour for free? It’s plausible that this figure is a large donor to the museum, for example, in which case getting a private tour doesn’t seem over-the-top.

        2. Moth*

          I disagree, because I’m looking at it from the side of the employees and what their jobs are. When you’re a performer, your job is to carry out the performances. When you’re an employee who sometimes organizes VIP tours, your job is to organize and carry out VIP tours. It doesn’t sound like this is something that falls out of the range of normal job duties for these employees, it’s only being treated differently because of who the VIP happens to be this time. I’m do agree that the examples are not perfect and I’m not saying that in this specific instance I necessarily disagree with the employees. Just that if it’s something that falls within your normal range of duties, sometimes there are ways to do it that still allow you to have a voice, like the example from AMPG above. But I do know that this can be a heated subject and that individuals can have different levels of comfort with different levels of protest.

          1. Aveline*

            That depends entirely upon what the job duties of the intern are.

            Even then, I know that my museum does not force curators to do tours for VIPs they find repugnant. If the person is controversial, the director does the tour.

            No one is ever forced to give this level of treatment to a VIP that they loathe.

    3. TootsNYC*

      Or maybe it’s a lesson in deciding what price you are willing to bear in order to stand up for the principles you believe in.

      1. Kramerica Industries*

        When it comes to politics and personal beliefs at the workplace, I think that there’s a certain martyrdom (on both sides) of people refusing service for what they believe in. It gets a lot of attention in the media and there’s something to be said about standing up for your ethics. So, the intern might think that this is the rightful thing to do.

        However, maybe the intern has not thought through the “real world” implications. OP, I’d say that educating the intern is the best route here. You’re not telling her that she has to stand down, but you’re letting her make her own choices with all information presented.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Very much this. Part of standing up for your beliefs can also mean risking the loss of something you value—including your job. That doesn’t mean a person shouldn’t take a stand or participate in civil disobedience, but political protest does not insulate us from the real-world consequences of our actions.

    4. Chinookwind*

      Yes. The way my grandfather explained it to me when I had issues with one person who I had to work with who was a jerk is that I needed to distinguish between the human and the position. Even if the human deserved no respect, the position did and by refusing to work politely with the human, I was in fact undermining the authority that position holds (and the person holding it won’t be there for ever). As well, if I refused to work with them, then my voice disappears and my P.O.V. may never been seen by them.

      So, the intern needs to do the minimum required professionally and understand that they are not there for Mr. X’s tour but for the (say) Governor of the state.

  2. Justin*

    I mean, I get it. I am sure I agree too (yes we are all wondering who it is now).

    But, for example, I’m very progressive, and used to work for a shady for-profit school when I needed a job. Part of this is knowing which battles to pick, and if you work for such a place that well-known folks visit, some of them are going to be unpleasant, ya know. Something the intern needs to learn, and as the OP says, learning to promote to those you don’t agree with is valuable.

    I mean, last year I saw Ted Cruz at my college reunion and did not harm the man. Spend your offsite time volunteering, donating or working for causes, I feel. Or… don’t intern there.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      I have the same alma mater as Paul Ryan. I dislike him greatly but would not threaten to harm him if we ran across each other one Alumni Weekend.

        1. Jennifer Juniper*

          Exactly. She’s acting like a bratty two-year-old who needs to be spanked and sent to bed without supper.

            1. AKchic*

              That’s rude.

              There is a huge difference between being young and not wanting to be near a politician who is patronizing a museum you are working for, versus that scenario.

              Do I think this intern needs to mature and do her job? Yes. Because a museum is a place of ideas. Hopefully one where the politician gets some enlightenment. Do I think he will? No. I think he’ll just get some photo ops and a private viewing of something someone within his entourage wanted to see up close without the “riff raff” (AKA: public) being around them. But it doesn’t hurt to try in this instance. This is a far cry from being someone who is personally holding toddlers in concentration camps. The hyperbole is unwarranted and unjust.

          1. Thursday Next*

            You are advocating violence…to teach someone that threatening violence is wrong?

            1. Starbuck*

              I never did understand how that one was supposed to work. I work with kids and it’s so sad to see these sorts of interactions in public … ‘if you hit your brother with that stick again I’ll take it away from you and smack you with it!’ Dad of the year, right there. Couldn’t figure out what lesson the kid was supposed to learn from that, except perhaps ‘be afraid of dad, he might hurt you.’

          2. Oxford Comma*

            I think that’s more than a bit extreme.

            Perhaps the intern unwisely thought that by saying she would attack the individual she was really emphasizing how much she did not want to go along on the tour. Most of us have used extreme language at least once in our lives. Interns are typically young and inexperienced. They take internships to gain experience and learn workplace norms.

            OP probably has to articulate a couple of things to the intern:
            1. You don’t ever use the threat of physical violence in the workplace.
            2. Museums depend heavily on funding and sometimes that means you have to deal with unpleasant donors and politicians and if this is going to be a problem for the intern, a new career choice may be in order.
            3. What professional behavior consists of (pretty much everything Alison suggested).

            Having said all of that, there are certain US political figures associated with the current administration who I would not want to have to cater to on a tour. Would I ever commit bodily harm against them? No. But if I would have no qualms expressing my firm discomfort with the idea of being present on such a tour and I might even quit over it.

      1. Justin*

        Paul Ryan lied about his marathon time on top of everything else! What a goober.

        But yeah, look, lots of folks who are terrible might come across us professionally. It’s unfortunate, but if I refused to come near anyone who (speaking of my own group) was racist (but not to me, or at work), well, I’d probably not have much of a career. Such are our disadvantages as members of disadvantaged groups. :/

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          But like… if David Duke wanted some special thing at your workplace, I would 1000% support you saying you wouldn’t be involved.

          1. Pollygrammer*

            To the point of refusing to, say, order the coffee, knowing that ordering the coffee would just get passed on to somebody else who might very well share the same perspective? What good does that do for anyone?

              1. Pollygrammer*

                I’m not sure that allocating tasks based on race and gender is a great solution…

            1. KHB*

              Maybe you’d instill that other person with the courage to also refuse to order the coffee. And maybe if enough people refuse to order the coffee, David Duke will have to sit through his special event without any coffee, and his life will be that much more uncomfortable for it.

              It’s not much, but it’s also not nothing.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  You might not. There’s several stores that have stood by employees who refused to serve people who were being racist and/or harassing other patrons.

      2. Autumnheart*

        Paul Ryan was literally at my company to give a speech yesterday. I did not attend. I hope whoever did attend gave him a ton of crap. My company is well-known for having many women in leadership, the CEO is an immigrant, and a large number of our employees and contractors are immigrants.

        1. JS*

          I’m so glad I work for a company where its completely acceptable to openly show disdain for the GOP. They would never show their faces here LOL!

        2. Chinookwind*

          “My company is well-known for having many women in leadership, the CEO is an immigrant, and a large number of our employees and contractors are immigrants.”

          There is apart of me wondering if your CEO was trying to make a point to Paul Ryan by having him show up and face a group with that type of make up. In which case, showing up has the advantage of showing that you will not be forgotten and swept under the rug.

          1. LR*

            Just curious, what about Paul Ryan speaking is at odds with being a woman in leadership or an immigrant? He’s not part of the Trump administration, he’s just a republican. Are we now just assuming that all republicans are anti-woman and anti-immigrant and so they should be automatically disdained? Asking as a female lgbt first generation american who does not identify as democrat or republican.

            1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              Paul Ryan is anti-choice, voted against equal pay for women, and while historically not horrid on immigration, he hasn’t quite held his own against the Trump administration’s fervent anti-immigration policies. Link in my name to the wikipedia page about his political views.

            2. Bailey*

              He wants to take healthcare away, or at least pre-existing conditions. People would literally die if he has his way.

      3. Political consultant*

        But Paul Ryan is not the same as Steve Bannon or Stephen Miller, not by a long shot.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          Yeah, he believes the same as them but actually has power to help enact it. Truly a scary person.

    2. Jen*

      I had to give a Senator whose politics I abhor a tour of my office once. Some days you just have to do your job.

      1. Miss Fisher - Lady Detective*

        I am pretty sure I would be fired if I refused to process loan paper work for say Trump Tower or Mar a Lago, so I would do the job, probably while grumbling to myself though.

        1. Decima Dewey*

          I completely disagree with one of my senators. But if he showed up at my library, I would give him a tour and help him find the information he was looking for.

          My city has a policy on Prohibited Political Activity, so my views, for or against any politician are not to be aired at my workplace.

          1. WolfPack Influencer*

            If any of them showed up in the guise of a regular person wanting normal library services, I’d suck it up, be frostily professional, and do it. But any sort of special tour or after hours office tour or anything that doesn’t get done for any average person we serve on the regular? Not going to happen on my watch. And I can express that very politely and professionally, and if I lose my job because of it, then it’s worth it.

            Because being “professional” doesn’t mean you HAVE to go along and countenance horrible things just because your workplace bosses choose to countenance them. And the sooner enough people realize this, the more quickly the people will be able to make their opinions known (politely and professionally) to the people in power, and maybe hopefully make a difference.

            1. Chinookwind*

              Whereas I could see someone like that requiring special after hours treatment for the good of the public because such a visit would disrupt regular service (I am thinking a higher level of security, protesters blocking admittance to patrons, etc.). In which case, such treatment is for the good of the public you serve and should be done with the same level of professionalism.

              I suspect this may be why the OP’s VIP tour is taking place – to protect regular patrons from disruption and security threats.

              1. WolfPack Influencer*

                I can see that argument, but unfortunately there is still a public perception that by providing that ‘perk’ (tour, access, special seating, whatever) your place of work is at least tolerant of – if not actively supporting – that person, and depending on who it is and what they’ve voted/done, I’m not doing it.

                I’m not willing to be in any way on the side that looks like they are supporting terrible things. And I also understand that I might lose my job for it. But someone’s got to stand up to evil. If they are accessing regular services I’ll give myself a stroke in my efforts to be polite and at least professionally helpful. Any inch more? Not a chance in hell.

              2. Hapless Bureaucrat*

                It could be any number of reasons. The museum could have funding in a bill or agency the public figure controls. In which case you bet they get a private tour… of all the areas of crumbling infrastructure and with numbers of all their constituents who accessed those services. Even if they don’t agree with the mission they get the tour. Even if they have said on the congressional record that they think your employees are lazy, they get the tour.
                And, having had to do similar in the past, yeah it frankly sucks. Those of us in positions to work with them knew it was an aspect of our jobs in a way it wasn’t for other employees. All employees knew they at least had to be polite or not in sight.
                If you can’t, be sick, or quit. (For myself, my point to quit would have been if my bosses ever started agreeing with them. We all have our bright lines.)

          2. Rather Be Reading*

            I have given library tours to politicians who I know for certain have voted against giving us the funding we need. I hated every minute I had to spend with them, but I’ve grown accustomed to paychecks.

    3. Lurker*

      I saw Ted Cruz walk in the P-rade year as well – nobody harmed him – but the general contempt for him was made known :)

  3. TotesMaGoats*

    So, I agree with Alison on what to say but I think that the intern should not have been allowed to dump all her duties. She doesn’t want to go along on the tour? I’d absolutely understand and support her not doing that. Not arranging for parking, coffee set up, packet of materials, whatever that she’d do for another VIP visitor? Nope. You do your job. Unless this is someone so abhorrent that you have to stand your ground but I’d hazard I guess it’s probably not on that scale. However, if the person was that bad then you, OP, probably would’ve opposed this visit for yourself.

    This is absolutely a professionalism/pick your battles conversation that needs to be had.

    1. Luna*

      Yes, I think the LW should talk to the intern now, not later, and make it clear that 1) “jokes” about physically attacking someone are never okay and if she says anything like that again she will be fired immediately, and frankly she’s lucky she wasn’t fired the first time; and 2) she doesn’t have to be present during the tour but she MUST do her job and work on the logistics, and if she refuses then she will be fired.

      1. Observer*

        Me three.

        The intern is not a child, but an adult. This is really not about workplace norms, but about being a reasonable adult. Reasonable adults don’t threaten violence to people they don’t like, even if they are abhorrent, nor do they refuse to do their jobs (and expect to retain the job.)

          1. Specialk9*

            You are the one who jumped to Nazis, through this whole thread. That’s not in the letter.

            The letter specifically says it’s NOT Voldemort, but beyond that no details. Nothing on Nazis or child focused state terrorism. It’s one of the options, but it’s just a guess, and there are lots of other options. All we know is the political figure is male, prominent, and controversial. We don’t even know it’s in the US.

            So… Boris the Brexit? Putin? Any of the MPs who oppose or support Irish abortion rights? Etc.

            Likening a commentator who says ‘this intern is being childish’ to a Nazi camp genocider is… Fairly extreme.

          2. Czhorat*

            Yes, THIS.

            There are enough actual Nazis around these days that I am willing to give the intern the benefit of the doubt.

            As I said in another thread, the intern has the very least power of anyone involved. Chiding them for exercising that power magnifies the inherent inequality of the situation.

            1. CynicallySweet*

              I’m not. And – side point – as someone whose people the Nazi’s tried to wipe out that word is used far too often and inaccurately. But this has literally nothing to do with whether the person involved is an actual Nazi.

              The intern should have the least power, and she’s not there to excersize (I can’t spell this word and give up trying to figure out how) the power she does have. She’s there to learn. And learning that the way she handled this is inappropriate and in many cases a firing offence is part of that. Saying that she’s being chided is a weirdly childish way to phrase an adult getting feedback about how she handled a work situation. There should inequality in this situation that’s part of being an intern vs a manager.

              1. Observer*

                Thanks for putting that so well.

                Another person whose “type” the Nazis tried to destroy.

              2. Engineer Girl*

                Third. Worse, my mother’s family had a German surname (Alsace) so I was beat up and called Nazi by supposed good people. Oh, the irony.

                1. Engineer Girl*

                  People judged my belief system on an extremely shallow criteria. And they got the wrong person.

                  I see the same thing on this board. People are assuming beliefs based on political party, religion, etc. which means they will probably get the wrong person when they do their vigilante justice.

          3. LR*

            “Actual Literal Nazis.” It is so troubling that we have accepted that as a definition for “ignorant racists who we disagree with.” I find racist people repulsive, but they are not “Actual literal Nazis” and it’s actually super disrespectful to all of those people who suffered through the holocaust and nazi occupation to equate some idiot protesting hateful things with a tiki torch to a regime that systemically murdered millions of people. White supremacists are ugly ugly people, but Nazis and their victims actually existed, they’re not just some villains in a movie you watched.

            1. TychaBrahe*

              People are actually marching in the street chanting, “Blood for soul.”

              People are waving the Nazi flag at political demonstrations.

              A Republican candidate for office ran on a platform of making Judaism illegal in the US. Another asks what’s wrong with being a racist and a White-supremacist; after all, God is one, too.

              This isn’t “some racists.” This is actual Nazis.

              1. Specialk9*

                Yeah let’s not be disingenuous. We’re not calling them Nazis, they’re doing that, and wearing swastikas with pride.

            2. stephistication1*

              White supremacists are just as real as Nazis – they are not movie villains.

            3. A username of extraordinary originality*

              I wonder if this comes from an overlap in readership with Captain Awkward, who has frequently called the current US administration and anyone who voted for them “Nazis”.
              (I actually asked a question related to this in a weekend thread here, as in my opinion the tone of her blog has become a lot more aggressive and hostile lately).

              1. Specialk9*

                Not sure if you’re baiting us? That’s not a tenuous link, it’s a solid and repugnant one. You know, actual swastikas?

                1. TL -*

                  My mother voted for Trump and she’s not a Nazi. I don’t agree with a lot of her politics, and I do think she downplays the harm to groups of other people which infuriates me (we all do; it’s just harder to tolerate when it’s in your own country and not, say, your iPhone or clothes manufacturing), but she’s not a Nazi.

            4. Political consultant*

              Stop playing semantic games. Steve Bannon may not (so far as we know) have a literal red armband. He still holds morally odious views that MUST NOT be normalized. He is still a racist even if not a Nazi. This is not a disagreement over whether the top tax bracket ought to be 30% or 35%.

            5. me*

              Yes. this bugs me too. They aren’t ” Actual Literal Nazis” because they aren’t members of the no longer extant National Socialist German Workers party. The tiki torch guys may be Neo-Nazis but that is not the same thing as “Nazis”

              I think that its important to make this distinction because the Neo Nazis are a current threat we need to deal with on modern terms. I also agree, equating a Neo-Nazis, with a regime that actually ruled a country and slaughtered millions of people is disrespectful to the people who suffered under actual Nazis. They just are not the same thing.

      2. Triplestep*

        Yes to all of this. I am the parent of a 22 year-old who has her first post-college job, and I cringe when I read things like this. I don’t think she’d pull something like this, but if she did, I would hope the person in charge would give her a stern talking-to and make her do her job.

        I hope this intern is told that NOT doing her job is a sign of her privilege – something people who need their jobs don’t get to do. That might make her think twice about her own behavior. She can (and should) take a stand on her own time.

        And I say this as someone who has strong political views, who encouraged her kids to be informed and have opinions, taking them to demonstrations from the time they were very little. I was an activist in college as well, but the sense of entitlement today … yeesh! [old lady shaking fist in air]

        1. gecko*

          Or, consider: this intern is lucky to have the privilege of quitting as a protest, and have a greater impact. I think it’s a weird choice to try to co-opt the trappings of social justice language (“a sign of her privilege”) to suppress someone’s social justice praxis.

          It’s a pick your battles question, as Luna notes above. But it’s certainly not entitled to say, yeah, this is a battle I’m going to pick–particularly if the intern is not legally obligated to provide services and is not making this decision based on the religion/gender/sexuality of this person.

          Fully agree, however, that the “joking” threats of violence need to stop.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Except it’s not: She is free to do as she pleases on her own time. They’re not telling her she can’t protest; they’re telling her she can’t refuse to do her job. And it IS a sign of privilege to be able to choose your principles over being able to eat (I know she’s an intern but the rest of us who have jobs would have to make this choice). And she’s free to pick that battle and live with the consequences, but the consequences are by no means the same for everyone.

            1. TootsNYC*

              but isn’t that the POINT of recognizing your privilege?

              She -has- the privilege of quitting her job in protest, or of not doing her job and forcing the company to fire her (another valid way to protest, btw).

              Why shouldn’t she USE that privilege to make this statement?

              1. Observer*

                She absolutely CAN use her privilege, and perhaps she should.

                But she SHOULD recognize that this is indeed what’s happening.

                More importantly is that she is not only not cognizant of her existing privilege, she is also acting in an extremely entitled manner, and that IS a major problem. The idea that she can refuse to do her job, and make threats, and not face any consequences is absolutely an entitled idea. It’s almost a caricature of the stereotype of “entitled young people.”

              2. Oryx*

                I guess I’m not entirely clear on how this is a positive use of her privilege. How does her quitting her job like this — and option that, again, many people don’t have — make progress towards change and assist marginalized individuals?

                The reason that privilege is viewed negatively is that people often wielded it in a way that comes off as entitlement.

                1. fposte*

                  Yes, I’m struggling with that too. Now if you arrange something like this as a collective movement, that’s another matter; strikes can progress toward change. But at lower levels of employment an individual quit just isn’t likely to have much impact on the goal because it’s not a statement that’s likely to get heard.

                  Again, not ragging on the intern if she chooses to quit; she gets to make that choice even if not everybody has that option. I just don’t think it has much impact.

                2. STG*

                  The impact is that she can sleep at night knowing that she made a decision that upheld her morals.

                  That can be pretty respectable all on it’s own.

            2. Jadelyn*

              This is all technically true, yes, but I really don’t get how you and Triplestep are making the jump from “it is a privilege to be in a position to be able to choose principles over a job” to “therefore, those who have that privilege should never actually exercise it.” That’s what’s baffling to me here.

              1. Triplestep*

                I’m not saying she should not exercise her privilege. I think she doesn’t know she is demonstrating behavior that only a person with privileged could demonstrate. I think it would be a kindness to point this out to her, the same way it’s a kindness to tell interns when they are not dressing in a workplace appropriate way, for example.

                1. EBStarr*

                  “I think she doesn’t know she is demonstrating behavior that only a person with privileged could demonstrate.”

                  Why do you think that, though? Most people who are interested in social justice are going to be pretty well versed in the concept of their own privilege. In fact, they may be doing it specifically because they feel called upon to use that privilege to speak up when other people may not be free to do so for economic or other reasons. It’s not like she’s using white privilege to get away with wearing hoop earrings to work or something.

                  I’m extra sensitive to this right now because I recently took somewhat of a career risk to speak out against company policies I believed were wrong, and was similarly told condescendingly that that was a “privilege” that I felt free to do that. Which I knew. And was part of my motivation: it felt extra shameful to stay silent when the consequences for me losing my job were not super dire (my spouse having a high paying job, etc.).

                2. Specialk9*

                  @EBStarr, I’m curious why you – and most all of this thread – are assuming she’s liberal. I know lots of conservatives who would act that way too.

                3. Triplestep*

                  @EBStarr, I think that because I am a parent of a person in this age group who talks about privilege and knows she has it, but still complained every one of the four years of her expensive private university about the “spoiled rich White kids” there. (We are White, and while not wealthy, she did not qualify for financial aid nor work study and we supported her nearly 100%.) She talks a lot about unconscious bias and seems not to recognize her own. She talks about people being complicit in racism while she is complicit in age-ism.

                  I do not think she would shirk her responsibilities at work because she is motivated to do well there, but she does not see the extension of her actions often. Example: She is concerned about the environment, but will load the dishwasher with her nearly clean dishes rather than wash them quickly by hand. In her mind she is complying with our request that she clean up after herself, but I had to point out to her the disconnect between her professed environmentalism and her causing us to have to run the dishwasher three times as often to wash nearly clean dishes!

                  And for the record, I think she’s terrific overall, but I see this behavior in her friends, too. If you don’t spend a lot of time with this age group, you might take at face value that because they talk about privilege, they are highly aware of their own.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            Intern can choose this as the hill to die on (metaphorically, as in “I would rather be fired than arrange this person’s parking pass”). But choosing it as the hill on which to have a work sit-in (I won’t do this, everyone else put in extra time to handle my work, I’ll be reading a magazine in the break room) isn’t something that should fly at work.

            Now maybe she can be shunted to doing other work and this can fall under the informal definition of “accommodation”, which some workplaces do for belief systems if there’s enough coverage–but right now it’s not clear that she’s doing anything other than nobly refusing to do work which other people will then have to do.

            1. Tuxedo Cat*

              I think that the letter writer should have a conversation with the intern regarding hills she wants to die on. Not in a threatening way but in a way that makes it clear that the intern’s actions may have consequences (or do, in this situation) and that the intern will likely need to weigh things out in the future.

          3. TootsNYC*

            I agree! If she wants to pick this battle, she can.

            This is an opportunity for her to think about what she is willing to sacrifice in order to stand up for her principles.

        2. Political consultant*

          “I hope this intern is told that NOT doing her job is a sign of her privilege – something people who need their jobs don’t get to do. That might make her think twice about her own behavior.”

          …and those of us who have privilege have some ability to use it to encourage social good. So I’d hope that it would indeed make her think twice, in the sense of doubling down on her principled stance.

          1. Triplestep*

            When I wrote “I hope this intern is told that NOT doing her job is a sign of her privilege …” I literally meant I hope someone tells her. Because I think she does not know.

            Before you can use your privilege to encourage social good, you first have to recognize your HAVE privilege, and in what ways you have it. I think this intern is just being a brat, who thinks she can decline to carry out her responsibilities in social protest without concern for the fall-out.

            1. Specialk9*

              I also thought there was a good chance that the intern:

              a) Doesn’t know workplace norms (you will get fired for threatening violence at work, you will likely get fired for refusing to do work instead of asking, bringing politics into an apolitical workplace is not a good idea). It’s shocking for many of us that work isn’t like school.

              b) Doesn’t recognize how many people swallow caca every day in their jobs, because they don’t have options. That’s what privilege is – having options that others don’t have, due to birth or connections rather than your work or capabilities. (It’s an assumption, but interns generally skew higher socioeconomic.)

              C) Genuinely doesn’t realize she can get fired.

              I’m not judging, I’ve had my own rude awakenings. I just see an awful lot of naivete about life here.

              1. fposte*

                Yes, I have similar questions. I think it’s *possible* that the intern has thought through every one of those points, but I think it’s likelier that she didn’t. I’d try to use this as a coaching moment if possible, not necessarily for her to come to a different decision but for her to understand the broader context and to make sure she’s making that decision with intentionality. (And also to make sure she knows that mentions of violence, even in jest, aren’t acceptable.)

          2. tired anon*

            Yeah, that!

            One thing I’ve found in activist circles is people who try to focus on what they *can* do and let go of what they can’t. For example, I have physical issues that mean I can’t be on my feet for an extended period of time — so I can’t march in protests, but I *can* do other kinds of activism like phone banking for candidates I support.

            So if the intern is saying she will not provide services to this VIP, and that means risking getting fired — well, then it’s on her to do the math about whether she can afford for lose the internship. Some people will be able to; others won’t. It is indeed a privilege to be in a position where you can lose a job over principles. If that’s the position she’s in, then privilege is a reason *to* risk job loss, not a reason not to.

      3. JS*

        I think everyone is taking the “joke” wayyy too far. It’s one thing if she spoke about planning an attack on that person. It’s another if she made a flippant comment of “It would take all my strength not to punch Jeff Sessions in the face if he said something ignorant in front of me.” The former I would be concerned about their mental health and their being able to deal with conflict. The later is just an off hand remark with no real threat to the person. It’s different if they said “shoot and kill” or some other form of extreme violence or harm.

        1. Political consultant*

          I once had the habit of mispronouncing Sen. Jon Kyl’s name (not deliberately: I honestly thought it was prounounced “Kil,” not “Kyle”). My mistake lead to plenty of guffaws about how “we could just Kyl him.” Guess what: no one thought we meant it literally.

        2. Decima Dewey*

          I’d say it’s advisable not to make jokes at work that could prompt a visit from the Secret Service or the FBI.

          1. JS*

            Who is reporting that? If the threat were big enough to report then yes they will show up. But its also about common sense, we can use it easily here to tell whats an actual threat and what isnt.

        3. Just Go Asia!*

          But it’s not just the (assumed) joke of violence…it’s refusing to do her tasks associated with the visit. Her manager sounds like she’s ok with intern sitting out the tour but she needs to tell her to do the other parts of her job. Or face the consequences.

          1. JS*

            Regardless. I agree with intern here as a WOC, I am not doing anything, zip, nada, NONE for any politician who’s views directly harm me and others like me. Asking her to do so is unreasonable.

            1. Observer*

              She shouldn’t be ASKED. She should be TOLD. You want to quite over that? Go ahead. What is not reasonable is refusing to do your job and expecting no consequences.

        4. Clare*

          It’s not clear that the intern was joking, the LW says she “hopes” the threat of physical attack was a joke.

          1. JS*

            It also says only if the intern was forced to be in their presence. Context would suggest it would be a “this is how badly I don’t want to be around this person” and not a “I am planning an attack against the person”. OP could still be hoping that if for some reason they ended up in the same room intern would not keep it together but not that OP “hopes” they are joking in there is an actual threat of murder or serious injury.

        5. Genny*

          In a day and age where Congresspeople were attacked by a gunman while practicing for a charity baseball game, journalists were attacked by an angry, deranged man, and a counter-protester was killed during a white supremacist rally, I don’t think we have the luxury of not taking threats of violence seriously. That doesn’t mean you have to immediately call the police, but the intern needs to be told that, much like joking about bombs in an airport, you don’t joke about violence in the workplace.

        6. Cassie the First*

          I don’t like these kinds of “jokes” because I think it’s simply unhelpful to the conversation. IMHO, discourse and discussion is good; threats or jokes about physical harm are not. It’s not a bad idea to remind the intern of this concept.

          Back when I was in ballet, one of the dancers (Amy) was invited to perform for the then-President & First Lady. Another dancer (Ben) told Amy “you should shoot the president”. The other dancers and the teacher all laughed. I said “that isn’t funny” and Ben said “I was just joking”. I don’t think joking about killing anyone (regardless of who they are) is funny, and I think the office of POTUS is important enough that people shouldn’t just try to eliminate the person in the office because they disagree with his/her policies. And I actually liked the then-president; there were other dancers who did too, but they all kept their views private because the overwhelming (and vocal) majority hated him.

    2. Cacwgrl*

      This x1000!

      I may not agree with everything I do from a political basis, or with everyone I must interact with in my position. But I represent an organization that I chose to work for and I must be professional no matter what. Maybe this is one of those lessons that you learn with maturity, but if one of my interns tried this, we’d be looking at termination.

    3. mcr-red*

      Yeah, agree 100 percent. Thinking about if I was in the manager’s position, I’d be angry. I might be willing to let the tour thing slide, but not wanting to do any of her job and being all, “and if you make me go I’ll get violent!” NO. Be an adult. Sometimes that may mean interacting with people you cannot stand and maybe even hate.

      If I can interact politely with my abusive ex who refuses to pay child support, then you know what world? You can suck it up too.

  4. Allornone*

    I once worked for a bookstore when Jeb Bush walked in. There were four of us employees at the main Info desk. All four of us, unplanned and undiscussed, immediately, almost instinctively, ducked behind the desk. After a second, we realized we needed to suck it up and do our jobs, so we came back up, but it had to be funny to watch from the outside.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Seconding, in that I am literally laughing out loud to looks of mild consternation from my dogs. (“Does this mean food?”)

    1. Aveline*

      Yes, but he was just a patron. It wasn’t like you had to give him a VIP tour.

      That makes this entirely different.

      Her threat of violence is not ok, but her refusing to participate in treating this man as special – which is what a VIP tour does- is a different thing entirely.

      1. Allornone*

        I’m not really comparing the situation (though a comparison could be implied, so I apologize). I just thought it was a mildly amusing anecdote that the story reminded me of. Nevermind.

        1. I'll think of a clever name later...maybe.*

          I appreciated the share. I honestly took it to mean that sometimes the idea of interacting with someone whose belief system, politics, etc can make a person behave in ways that, at the moment, seem illogical.
          I can see the viewpoint of both the LW and the intern. I love my job and am a full time employee with a good amount of history here, but I know that I would probably react much like the intern if I found out that my work place were to host someone who’s views I found controversial and protest worthy. At the end of the day, I have to look myself in the mirror and I don’t think that I’d want to see someone who would just cite “professionalism” as a reason to not react in the workplace.

  5. mostly lurker*

    I mean I think it depends. If it’s someone who wants people of her demographic group dead–and in my country there are politicians and public figures who literally want that, based on things like race and religion–it’s understandable that she would feel that way, and that she would choose to follow her conscience.

    1. mostly lurker*

      *follow her conscience by refusing to participate in the tour, I mean. Not the other stuff, which I would hope is a joke.

        1. alice*

          It is asking a lot. I’m a member of one of those “vulnerable populations”, and while I certainly wouldn’t act in a way that this intern has, I would likely refuse (politely) to participate in any activities that would lead to the politician’s visit. And to be honest, I’d be a little insulted if I was asked to do so. The workplace ideally would have the ability to protect its own employees that way if they’re not able or willing to turn down the visit in the first place.

        2. Kb*

          Yeah, I think it would be terribly insensitive and abjectly wrong to expect a black intern to arrange the tour for David Duke, for example. I guess we don’t know a ton of details about the intern or the public figure, but imo those details would make a big difference for my advice.

          1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

            I don’t know, I think it would be rotten to ask *any* intern to serve David Duke. If I was serving coffee and he walked in, I would be on break as of that exact instant. Heck, if he was on fire and I was holding a Slushee, well, I’m thirsty and need to hydrate. Sorry, David Duke.

            1. Kb*

              True, but I just meant that it would be particularly insensitive to make a person of color of have to do that. Like, I think it’d be in-bounds to severely discipline or fire any manager who tried to force an intern of color to interact with or make arrangements for David Duke.

              1. Guacamole Bob*

                But if a manager forced a white intern to make arrangements for David Duke, that would be okay?

                I agree that the optics and emotional component are more insensitive if the intern is a member of a group that the VIP is trying to oppress, but I actually think that in terms of ethics and consequences it shouldn’t matter at all. I shouldn’t have to be forced to do morally repugnant things because I’m a member of some demographically powerful groups.

                1. Kb*

                  Neither would be okay, imo. I’m a person of color. If I had say over this theoretical David Duke situation, he’d get his tour but it would be given by me personally and focus exclusively on the contributions of people of color to society. That’s my personal take. If I had found out a manager had tried to make an intern of color participate in the tour, my reaction would be harsher and swifter because they were endangering the intern and it’s just so obviously bullshit. But if I had heard any intern had wanted to not participate in his tour and had been given pushback by their manager, I’d be none to happy with that manager as well. Consequences for both, but the former is just so, so obviously terrible, in my personal opinion.

                2. Guacamole Bob*

                  That makes sense. And if you’re talking about forcing someone to actually interact with David Duke, then obviously it is riskier or at least a bigger deal for a person of color. I was thinking more of the behind-the-scenes component, where I think the demographics of the intern matter less for how management handles it.

        3. Erin*

          I had the same thought. My state’s governor, whose politics and policies I tend to disagree with, has toured my school a couple of times. If coming to see my class was part of his schedule for a visit, I wouldn’t be thrilled, but you bet I’d make sure everything went off flawlessly (well, as flawlessly as is possible when 3rd graders are involved) so that he might leave thinking that our work is important and worth protecting, much like the letter writer suggested about her institution’s work.

          But. A visitor from an administration that is actively working to harm the non-white immigrant students I teach (and their families, and other kids and families who look like them)? That’s another matter entirely.

    2. selina kyle*

      Agreed. It seems really easy to say “oh just do your job” but when it’s possibly someone who really does want the intern/people who are like the intern in some way (race/gender/sexuality/etc) it makes sense to say “I can’t do this, it would directly be working against my own self”. It also seems to me that if I were the intern and everyone around me were saying “yes we agree with you BUT we’re not going to do anything about it” and continue to host a person who stands against my personhood, I’d have a hard time enjoying my tenure in that position.

      1. StellaBella*

        Yep this and the reply to this, too. Professional is one thing, certainly but if I knew this politician wanted me or my family deported/dead/jailed because of our skin colour, religion etc – and – this is important – pushed policies for these things – then I would sit it out too. I would do the basic pre-work and logistics but not be there with them, and what I would do instead is continue to write, email, call and pester lawmakers to challenge this dude. I’d do extra work to help being in other groups, disadvantaged folks, school kids, etc and continue to educate and be a part of the community.

        1. Observer*

          Well, that’s just the problem. The OP’s intern is not just asking do not be in on the visit itself.

        2. Jennifer Juniper*

          If the intern would be endangered because the politician wants people of her race/gender/etc. dead, then that is a different situation. In that case, the intern should be offered a different assignment for the day, where she cannot be seen by the politician.

          1. Jennifer Juniper*

            I should not have hit the send button on my last comment. I apologize for the last sentence in my previous comment.

        3. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          But why does this only apply if they want me, personally, to be rounded up and killed? Do I have to serve them if they only want my family or my friends rounded up and killed? Do I have to serve them if I don’t have any friends or relatives in that group, and they are just killing my fellow countrymen? Or my fellow humans? I don’t think there’s a special people-in-the-victimized-group opt out for serving genocidal bigots. I think there’s a special decent-human-being opt out.

      2. Observer*

        Then quit.


        But, to be honest, I think you are giving her way too much credit. The threats of violence, even as a joke, are not reflective of a mature and reasonable reaction.

        1. Jen*

          Especially of you have to do a security pre-screen, they can get your organization in trouble.

        2. JS*

          You are taking threats of violence too seriously. Like I said above its one thing to plan out an attack or explicitly threaten graphic violence or murder. It’s another to say “If I might punch this man in the face if I have to go on tour with him”. That’s definitely a reasonable reaction to have especially to someone who could be making policies and laws that would deport/imprison/impoverish/cause harm to your protected class.

          1. Nea*

            There are a lot of groups that do not have wriggle room to wave off any threat as not being serious. Security for one.

            An organization whose member has threatened violence on organizational territory for another.

            This entire page exists to give advice about the workplace. Even when the problem brought before Allison involves threats to someone’s career, job, or physical/nental well being, the answer has never been “It’s okay to let off steam with idle talk about punching that person in the face.” Or even making a voodoo doll, although we all know that black magic is just one of many occupational hazards.

          2. Specialk9*

            I’ve never once threatened violence against someone in my workplace. I feel like that’s a low bar.

            It also makes it hard to take the principled stand seriously, so it’s also bad strategy.

      3. The Original K.*

        Co-sign. I’m a Black woman. There are politicians that want me dead because of that fact. I’m not going to smile in their faces like that’s cool, even if it costs me my job. I won’t be a part of normalizing that – my self-preservation and safety is and will always be far more important.

        1. Justin*

          I agree with you, especially since you admit that it might cost folks like us our jobs.

          I’d probably do it and just feel bad about it (and work/donate/etc more), but I understand others are different.

          1. The Original K.*

            There is a lot of going along to get along that you have to do when you’re a minority in a workplace. I’ve spent my entire academic and professional life being one of only a few people of color (typically my workplaces have had a fair amount of women in them though), and I am very, very familiar with the dances we have to do in order to stay employed and receive educations at PWIs. If I quit every time someone asked to touch my hair, I’d never work anywhere more than a month (but the answer is always no, and if you touch without asking I will call you on it on the spot).

            This is different, though. There’s “I voted for the other guy” politics (I’ve had to be a part of a tour with that kind of politician; when my boss asked how it was for me, I simply said “He wasn’t my candidate”) and there’s outright bigotry and stripping of rights. That’s what we’re dealing with right now. And it’s not just me. My mother is disabled. My cousin and several of my dearest friends are gay. One of my other like-family friends is an Iranian immigrant. I couldn’t look them in the eye if I spent the day smiling at Steven Miller and pretending he wasn’t actively working to strip us of our rights. It would feel like I’d spat in their faces, and I just couldn’t do it.

            So yeah, I’d be prepared to walk, and I would be vocal about why, and the financial hit would sting but as John Lewis, one of my heroes, says, sometimes you have to get in good trouble. I understand and support this intern’s position, although I don’t agree with her threatening violence.

            1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

              Seconded. And if enough of us are willing to take this stand – and the sacrifices that go with it – we have a chance. On the other hand, if enough of us are willing to go along with the Steven Millers, give them their VIP tours, serve them their coffee, not rock the boat, make nice, follow orders, keep our job – well, that’s literally how Nazi Germany happened.

              I believe that is the point we are at right now.

              1. fposte*

                No. Nazi Germany did not happen as a result of people making coffee.

                However, what was a big factor was chaos and splintering among the non-Nazi political groups that left the Nazis seemingly the only hope of stability in the tumult of economic depression. Other people’s factionality is the Nazi’s best friend.

            2. Specialk9*

              Are you serious that people try to touch your hair monthly?! Not, like, 3 times in your life? Argh.

        2. TootsNYC*

          I’m a white woman. I wouldn’t want to normalize people who want Black people dead.

          And The Original K. might actually suffer more for taking her stance. She’s allowed to choose to suffer for her beliefs, and in fact I think that her statement would be all the stronger for it.

          If I took that stance, I might not suffer as much. So maybe my statement wouldn’t be as powerful because of that. But still…shouldn’t I make that statement anyway?

          And since I’m not directly affected by those threats, then wouldn’t that make my statement even more powerful?

        3. JS*

          Agreed. Also Black woman. No way in hell would I have anything to do with any politician who wants me dead because of my skin color. Thankful I am apart of a company who actively voices out against MAGA/Trump and those politicians. No way we would host them here LOL.

        4. Observer*

          Well, no one s asking her to smile at this guy. They are expecting her to do back office work, and to NOT MAKE THREATS. Even as a joke, that utterly out of line.

          1. The Original K.*

            I agree that threatening violence is out of line, and have said as much. But if she’s being asked to participate in the tour (OP says the intern was asked to come along as an observer in addition to the logistical paperwork), odds are good that she’ll have to maintain some semblance of professional demeanor – she can’t be rolling her eyes, sighing in a huff, she’ll probably have to shake his hand and exchange a few pleasantries. As I said, I had to participate in a tour of my old company with a politician I didn’t like, and there was a certain amount of glad-handing I had to do. There are some politicians I could do that with; there are some that even asking me to shake their hands would prove impossible for me. If the intern is in the latter position, I don’t find fault with her – and I also wouldn’t find fault with the OP saying, “If you aren’t able to take on duties XYZ, we can’t have you continue interning here, regardless of how I might feel about Politician’s policies myself.” I think it would be a totally reasonable outcome for the OP and the intern to sit down together, talk this out, and realize that the working relationship could not continue.

            1. Observer*

              Well, that’s not the issue here. The OP was explicit that the intern does not have to be in on the tour. If the OP fires the intern, it won’t be over the tour itself, but over the refusal to do any of the back end logistical work.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Agreed. As an LGBT woman, I would refuse to assist any member of the current administration in any capacity. They don’t have any respect for my existence so I don’t have any respect for them.

      1. Bones*

        And frankly someone like that wouldn’t get much sympathy from me if they were attacked. Don’t be a bigot if you can’t handle people treating you like one.

        1. Justin*

          …I agree somewhere in my heart, but, even as a black guy whose dad grew up in Jim Crow, if we say this…

          I’m iffy, but understand and respect your own views.

          1. Bones*

            I’m a Jewish woman and would gleefully watch an anti-semite being attacked. If appeals to your common decency didn’t work (because you’re a fully grown Nazi), then maybe an old fashioned ass whooping will.

            1. JS*

              I’m cackling at this. Same, you receive back the same energy you put out into the world. If you have a hateful message you can’t be shocked when people respond with hate in return.

              1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                +1000. It boggles the mind that more people aren’t saying this about members of our current administration.

        2. lobbyista*

          there’s a big difference between “I’m not going to serve or help you” and attacking someone.

          1. lobbyista*

            sorry Bones, misread your comment. Took it to mean you calling the folks not offering services as bigots who you wouldn’t sympathize with.

          2. AMM Newbie*

            I honestly disagree with Bones and Santiago – treating anyone unfairly, rudely, or standing by as someone is being attacked goes very against my values and does nothing to make any situation better. Whether you are someone I agree or disagree with you are still human and worthy of respect, you don’t have to respect me, but I will respect you and treat you with dignity as all should be. How does stooping to their level make you better than them, or show them your way is a better way. The loss of civility in society is appalling and no I don’t see being civil as normalizing any negative behavior because if both sides descend into the same negative behavior society gets no where and violence and disrespect is everywhere. As MLK said you can’t drive out hate with hate, only love can do that.

            1. Bones*

              Funny you should bring up MLK, who also wrote this:

              “I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

              I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”

              1. Leslie knope*

                This is so sorely needed in this post. So much handwringing over “professionalism” when these people don’t deserve anything besides to be driven out red hen style wherever possible. Maybe with a dash of drink in the face.

                1. Specialk9*

                  That’s so not in the letter though. We don’t know what country this even is, nor what political party or politician.

                  This whole thread has basically taken the “it’s not X” to mean “it’s most definitely X”. (Saying the T word gets moderation.)

            2. Delphine*

              Draw a line. If you have no lines, if no behavior is reproachable, if no action is worth the loss of your respect, then you have no ideals and no beliefs and you respect nothing. Would you treat a KKK member with respect and dignity? An ISIS member? A Nazi? Where’s your line? The truth is, we all have one, whether that line excludes bigots or not is up to you.

              1. AMM Newbie*

                I never said no behavior was reproachable and that certain situations wouldn’t lose my respect. There are many people who I no longer respect but I would never attack them or threaten to attack or stand by as they were attacked, how does that make anything better? There are nonviolent ways to get your point across and to show your displeasure. There are many ways I stand up without losing my moral compass. That’s my line and everyone is entitled to theirs and I respect that. I was not saying people can’t react to situations how they please but I also believe we can find better ways to keep fighting a clean fight.

                1. Joielle*

                  How does that make anything better? It makes abhorrent people uncomfortable. It makes them painfully aware that they are not welcome in civilized society and their ideas are not accepted or even tolerated. Scott Pruitt quit (partially) because people kept embarrassing him in public. Richard Spencer has practically been hiding out since he got punched on inauguration day. Is it pretty? No. But let’s not pretend that we’re still working within the standard framework here. The paradigm has shifted and anyone still crying for civility is a modern version of the white moderates MLK so abhorred.

                2. Specialk9*

                  @AMM Newbie “July 10, 2018 at 1:01 pm
                  I never said no behavior was reproachable and that certain situations wouldn’t lose my respect. There are many people who I no longer respect but I would never attack them or threaten to attack or stand by as they were attacked, how does that make anything better? There are nonviolent ways to get your point across and to show your displeasure. There are many ways I stand up without losing my moral compass.”

                  @Joielle “anyone still crying for civility is a modern version of the white moderates MLK so abhorred.”

                  Joielle, that’s really a shitty thing to say. Dude.

            3. Jadelyn*

              And here goes the “but Civility!!!”

              I would strongly recommend you read up on the paradox of tolerance before continuing this kind of conversation.

              The problem is that we already know, from historical evidence, that the other side will not refrain from “descending into negative behavior” just because we’re polite to them. Trying to be civil and polite to fascists just results in fascists gaining power and killing people. It’s been tried. It doesn’t work. So the choice isn’t between civility and uncivility, it’s between civility and survival for a lot of us.

              And you know, if you want to quote MLK, I’ve got a really good MLK quote for you:
              “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action…””

              When you tell us we can’t fight fire with fire, what we hear you saying is “just stand there and burn quietly out of my sight, so that I don’t have to see the fight happening in front of me.”

              1. The Original K.*

                “When you tell us we can’t fight fire with fire, what we hear you saying is “just stand there and burn quietly out of my sight, so that I don’t have to see the fight happening in front of me.””


              2. General Ginger*

                This. All of this. I am so tired of the “but if you sink to their level” rhetoric, because what it really means, is “stop inconveniencing me with your problems, because i have the privilege to ignore them”.

              3. TychaBrahe*

                Also, as someone who spent 25 years in Southern California, I can tell you that when it comes to great conflagrations, you absolutely do fight fire with fire.

              4. Gazebo Slayer*

                Speaking of fire – your post is straight fire. Wishing for fire emojis here.

            4. Mulher na Selva*

              What sort of extra civility would you recommend to stop the Neo-Nazis from marching and subsequent events in Charlottesville? They come prepared and willing to do violence. And, frankly, someone who behaves in that way will not be respected by me. There are not fine people on both sides.

      2. Czhorat*

        As a cisgender heterosexual white male I’m with you. Harm to any of us is harm to all of us; I may live on an island, but I am not an island.

        There are too many very harmful ideas on the mainstream for more of us to not take a stand.

    4. Elemeno P.*

      Yes, this. If someone who wanted me and my family dead was coming to my work, I would also request to be removed from their presence.

    5. Anony McAnonFace*

      I completely agree. It’s easy to say that people should just be quiet and be professional when it’s not your people being hurt. But honestly, there are so many disgusting people in politics that I can see how someone might decide they aren’t morally okay with helping. Obviously without knowing who the person in question is, it’s hard to say, but if they’re very homophobic, or racist, or taking children from their parents, etc. etc. etc. I can see how someone might be uncomfortable being in a room with them. I think your intern has every right to refuse to be around this person. There are some people where I would be uncomfortable doing anything regarding their visit.

      You have every right to let her go for refusing to do her tasks, but I wouldn’t think that now is the time to be teaching our young people to swallow shit from Nazis and baby snatchers. Not for any opportunity or job.

      She should have been more politic about how she phrased it, and should have been clear that her moral responsibility would not allow her to engage with such a person. She should not have said anything about violence, but that’s what you should be coaching her on, in my not so humble opinion.

      As an aside, I would also be pushing back on this person’s visit. I know I’m not visiting any place that has a reputation for catering to people who try to kill me and people like me.

        1. Specialk9*

          Except that the politician is Boris Johnson, the Brexit dumbkopf.

          (I don’t know if it’s him, none of us do, that’s the point. The letter was silent on which country, or which politician. We just know it’s not Trump.)

          1. Amber T*

            Regardless of who it is or isn’t, this letter is asking, basically, how to handle protesting in the work place, which at least in the States, is/can be very relevant.

            1. Specialk9*

              I think it’s a great question. It’s one I struggle with. But everyone is acting like it’s definitely Richard Spencer or his genocidal domestic terrorist ilk, but it really could be someone on the normal, pre-2015, political spectrum. Which really is different!

      1. atalanta0jess*

        Yes. This.

        It seems to me that the intern, while not acting in the most savvy way, is doing a better job at being human than a lot of other folks involved in this scenario. Do not give tours to Nazis and baby-kidnappers. Throw sand in the gears.

        1. Specialk9*

          The politician is Bernie Sanders, actually.

          Or pretty much any male controversial politician in any country that also has at least one museum. Except the one politician named, who this guy isn’t.

          1. General Ginger*

            And if it is Bernie Sanders, then the intern is safe, and likely overreacting. But we don’t know. And I’m pretty comfortable saying I’d be protesting Bernie Sanders (if I felt the need to protest him) a lot differently than, say, Mike Pence.

            1. Specialk9*

              That was exactly my point. “the intern is doing a better job at being human than a lot of other folks involved in this scenario. Do not give tours to Nazis and baby-kidnappers. Throw sand in the gears.” Uhh wait what? That’s complete conjecture! None of that is in the letter. Yeesh.

      2. Asleep or maybe dead*

        +a million
        Thanks, I thought I was having a bad bad nightmare for a second here

        1. Anony McAnonFace*

          I know, right?! So many people saying just suck it up. To an (I presume unpaid so lol what are they going to do? Not pay her some more?) intern. In this, the year of Nazis and baby snatchers. Eff a bunch of that!

          1. cryptid*

            People who are not nazis but also not the direct targets of nazis want to believe there exists a cheat code of good behavior that will make nazis stop. If you’re just civil long enough, just do your job, just just just. Those of us who are targets know better.

            1. Observer*

              Nope. You seem to be ignoring several of us what ARE members of target groups, and who have no illusions who strongly believe that the intern’s behavior is out of line.

          2. Observer*

            Actually, that’s not what most of us are saying.

            If you want to protest effectively, rather than just trying to make yourself feel good, understanding what people are ACTUALLY saying is a good starting point.

    6. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Right? I appreciate the “suck it up and do your job” sentiment, but this really feels like a “placate them with politeness” / false equivalencies solution and we’ve seen time and time again this doesn’t work. As the low rung on the ladder, the intern has zero power in the grand scheme of the museum and its choices, but I’d kind of love to see the higher ups at the museum say “Hey, maybe this is an opportunity to take a stand on something.” But I don’t believe museums have an obligation to be neutral — their very existences are often built on non-neutrality and usually colonialism, and every day museums are working to break down the fraught legacies of how they got to where they currently are. You don’t *have* to act like everything is hunky dory if a problematic politician decides he wants a tour (or, more likely, a photo op?). “This is a good opportunity for us to showcase to him the value of well-funded cultural institutions” seems like wishful thinking.

      1. Asleep or maybe dead*

        Thank you!!! I was trying to write something about the disingenuous false equivalenccies being thrown around, but it hits home to close to me to be able to be half as eloquent as you were.

        Also, I appreciate the comments going “I am X Y Z, and I would never…”. That’s cool, but you should’ve been able to speak up and receive empathy at the time as well, damn.

      2. alice*

        I agree that it’s a great opportunity for the museum to be shown publicly has having some moral fiber. I think we all respect institutions and businesses more when we see they are human too. What they’re doing is saying “We don’t care about the people that this politician actively hurts, some of whom may be our own employees; we care more about the image of showing around an important person.” This is of course assuming the politician is actively involved in any policy that hurts people.

      3. Joielle*

        Agreed! I read the letter and was left wondering why the museum is going along with this at all. If the intern, the person with no power, is willing to put their job on the line, maybe the higher ups should take a hard look at their own moral compasses and either refuse the tour and explain why, or give the tour with a very pointed message, in which case I imagine the intern would want to participate. We’re well past the time for polite appeasement, and as you eloquently said, museums, with all their historical baggage, should be first in line to stand up to oppressors.

    7. fposte*

      The problem is, there are fields where public access is paramount. It’s true in libraries, and museums are close enough that it may be true there as well. You don’t have the option of following your conscience in a library by failing to serve a patron seeking access.

      1. Anony McAnonFace*

        They’re not disallowing this person access. There’s a big difference between not serving a patron as you would any other, and not rolling out the red carpet and champagne.

        I would refuse service to several people right now, but I would get someone else to serve them (as apparently pharmacists are allowed to do (which I think is insane, but whatever)). This is special treatment, and I’m not even remotely down for that.

        1. Aveline*


          OP, as a major donor to my local, I will tell you if I found out they used my money to give any of the Trumpites a private tour, there would be no more money. Period.

          You don’t just have an intern problem. You have an optics problem.

          The intern is being grossly unprofessional, but she’s not wrong.

          I understand that’s above your pay grade, but it should be something you are aware of if she pushes back and this ends up escalated.

        2. Observer*

          Actually, the pharmacist example is a good one. A pharmacist can refuse to serve someone, but ONLY if there is someone on hand to serve the person. The pharmacist can’t insist that the person come back another day or that the employer keep a second pharmacist on hand to serve these customers. And if a pharmacist ever said “I’m going to slash your tires over this” to a customer, even as a joke, they would be out of a job so fast they wouldn’t know what hit them.

          Also, the rule is very narrow- the pharmacist may refuse to sere someone who wants help doing something that goes against the conscience of the pharmacist, but not someone the pharmacists doesn’t approve of. The classic example is BC, which the pharmacist can refuse to provide as long as there is someone else around who can provide it. But, the pharmacist can’t refuse to sell the woman who came in for BC antibiotics or pain killers, or whatever.

          In other words, even where the law explicitly carves out something of a duty to accommodate someone’s conscience, it’s quite limited.

      2. Aveline*

        yes, there is a difference between private clubs and public service insidutuons. That’s not what is key here, IMHO.

        This isn’t normal access, it’s a VIP tour. By its nature, it’s saying he’s special and treating him like he’s worthy of it.

        This is where I think Allison is dead wrong. There’s a huge difference between denying him access to the museum as a normal, paying customer and giving him a special perk.

        The museum and its staff are making a statement by giving a VIP tour. It’s not a neutral one.

        I’m highly involved w a local museum. We are very careful who we give VIP tours. Because by giving them you are making a statement about the person getting the tour.

        It’s not just normalizing then person, it’s giving them approval or saying they get special treatment.

        I think both Allison and OP are missing that. This act isn’t neutral, like processing a donation or his membership card. It is, by its nature, positive to him. Even if that positivity is because of his position.

        We aren’t talking about treating him like everyone else. We are talking about treating him as better than everyone else. That’s what VIP tours are. A statement the institution views this guy as more worthy of their time and attention.

        Does he deserve that just because he was elected or appointed?

        Her professionalism or lack thereof is also an issue, but it isn’t the only one.

        As a major donor, if I found out my museum had given a VIP tour to a Trump admin person or Putin or someone else vile, there would be no further donations.

        If they admitted them in the same terms as everyone else, I’d be ok w it.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          This is absolutely relevant — I just don’t think the intern is in a position where she’s likely to change what the museum is doing. That kind of thing is a board-level decision … and museums are usually highly reliant on public and private funding, and typically aren’t going to want to jeopardize that. (Obviously I think they’d find a way to decline a private tour for, say, Goebbels. But in 1942, in Germany? Not so sure.)

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            I understand this, but I think if an institution wants to court someone as a donor who holds repugnant views, they should ask for staff volunteers to handle the situation and not expect the people who are actively being harmed by that person’s views and policies to do it.

            1. Clare*

              We don’t know anything about the intern or who the visitor is, or whether she is part of a group being actively harmed by this visitor.

              1. I'll think of a clever name later...maybe.*

                Comments like this make me think of the uncle who tells racist jokes and expect me to laugh because we’re white and there’s no way I, a white person, could be offended by racism. It doesn’t matter whether she is or isn’t part of the group(s) being harmed by the visitor – what matters is that she’s upset and doesn’t want to be part of the red carpet treatment her employer is giving this person who holds such gross views.

                1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                  Exactly. It’s just *more* egregious if she is openly and obviously a member of a marginalized group.

                2. Specialk9*

                  Wow that’s jumping to offensive rather than reading the comment you’re responding to. They said that we don’t know who the politician is — so we can’t know what “gross views” they hold. Likening a fellow commenter to a racist uncle is going nuclear for no good reason.

                  And I don’t like Bernie Sanders either, but that doesn’t make me a racist uncle making racist jokes, either.

            2. Lara*

              Absolutely. I’m not sure what is ‘juvenile’ about having principles and sticking to them. There are some very dangerous, very nasty politicians around right now, and if OP has protested outside this person’s office then they are likely one of them. If my boss asked me to work with one of those people, I’d absolutely refuse. If he made it a condition of employment, I’d quit. I’m not going to smile and kowtow and pour champagne for someone who thinks I’m less than human. And there’s nothing childish about that.

              1. attornaut*

                I think the childish/immature part is saying she’d physically attack him if she was in the same room as her, not just refusing service.

          2. Aveline*

            I agree.

            I’ve just seen a lot all over this thread about how this is the same is denying somebody a hamburger at lunch counter. Or conflating this w regular admittance to a museum, theater, or concert.

            It’s not the same.

            All OP can do is talk through this w the intern. But she needs to be aware there is a larger context. As a major donor (in the top 25 individuals historically), I really want to caution OP to be very careful. This could be a PR nightmare if intern decides to take this to social media.

            OP is between Scylla and Charybdis on this.

            Firing intern over this could blow up in her face.

            If it were me, I’d ask for guidance from someone higher up about what to do w anyone who is uneasy about this VIP visit.

            In my institution, the Chair of the BOT and the museum head would want to know this and would want to be the ones formulating a policy allowing for ethical opt outs.

            I am absolutely sure they would allow the intern to work on something else entirely.

            If the museum doesn’t already have that type of policy, it needs one stat.

          3. Student*

            The Guggenheim Museum directly rejected Trump’s request to borrow their art to decorate the White House, offering him a used golden toilet instead of the art he wanted. They didn’t just politely decline, they insulted him publicly over it.

            Museums can reject special-privileges requests from powerful politicians.

            1. Aveline*

              I’ve also dealt with this personally.

              I’ve broken bread with two SCOTUS justices. One whose opinions I agree with and one not. I had to think long and hard about the latter.

              My DH was once asked to give a tour to a dictator. A mass-murdering man who harmed a lot of people. Though it was in the scope of his duties at the time, he was informed he had every right to say no and his no would be respected. Fortunately for him, said dictator got sick and the issue was avoided. Dictator was later assassinated by his own people.

              1. Thursday Next*

                Aveline, I’d like to nominate you and your DH for interviews with Alison…sounds like you both have fascinating workplace stories.

            2. Genny*

              I suppose it depends a bit on the type of museum. I think art museums have a level of flexibility that museums dedicated to history/learning don’t. I mean, the point of the Holocaust Museum is to educate people about the Holocaust and what we can do to prevent that from happening again. It’d be pretty weird for them to refuse to give a VIP a tour because of his views. It would however make a lot of sense for them to tailor their message for their audience to make a point.

          4. Oxford Comma*

            I doubt the intern thinks they are changing what the museum is doing. It’s probably an affair of conscience.

            For the past year and a half, I have made phone calls and marched in rallies for causes that are probably hopeless (and my heart breaks at that), but I’ve done it because I know that as someone who had family killed in the Holocaust, I could not live with myself if I didn’t speak up and try.

          5. TychaBrahe*

            I don’t have the power to change Dan Cathy’s mind on the subject of gay rights and conversion therapy.

            I still refuse to spend money at Chick-fil-A.

          6. Political consultant*

            A lot of big law firms dropped Big Tobacco as a client because junior associates refused to work for Big Tobacco’s cases. This was a clear case where grassroots pressure worked.

            1. fposte*

              That’s really interesting–I’d never heard that. I suspect there’s some loose calculus about how many people it takes at what level before it has effect–junior associates may not be powerful, but they’re way above interns. I’d love to know more about how that happened. Do junior associates usually have some latitude on what they’ll work on, and was there any collective discussion?

            2. Specialk9*

              That’s also the reason why the current president can’t find any respectable lawyers to work for him. The firms figured that all their women will quit, and their reputation will forever be tainted. Not worth it.

        2. WolfPack Influencer*

          Absolutely this. Equal access and equal service is professional and civil and in my opinion required. ‘Perks’ because they’re important or politically attached or whatever? That’s when you can stand up and say “Not doing it because of your x policies, find somewhere else”

        3. Yorick*

          One thing to consider is that a VIP tour may have a different purpose than to treat the person as special. A behind-the-scenes tour to the governor, for example, may be treated as an opportunity to show the importance of the institution so that funding and other support from the government can be prioritized. In that case, I think an institution should do it even though they may feel opposed to the politician’s views.

          We also don’t know who the visitor is, just that they’re famous and controversial. I think we’re all imagining the worst person who supports the policy that would hurt us the most, but we don’t know if that’s true.

          1. Aveline*

            The OP tells you that’s not the case here in her first two paragraphs:

            “I am a curator at a large museum, and we are currently running a major special exhibition. There has been an enormous amount of public interest in the exhibition, and demand for tickets is very high.

            Recently I was asked by my higher-ups to give a private tour of this exhibition to a prominent and controversial political figure”

            Special exhibitions
            Scarce tickets
            Private tour

            This is entirely special privilege.

            1. LR*

              Just because the demand for the exhibition is high does not mean this is entirely “special privilege.” The public figure in question could be a major donor to the museum or a politician who has a say in whether that museum will receive an increase in funding. The point is the higher ups in the museum deemed this private tour appropriate, and that’s their call, not the intern’s.

      3. Anne*

        Museums deny access all the time. Most museums in the US charge steep entrance fees, thereby denying access to financially underprivileged. Some museums have poor accessibility, therefore denying access to disabled people. Any public building reserves the right to deny access to someone who is drunk, violent, or who doesn’t abide by a dress code (no shirt no shoes no service kind of thing). All this is accepted as normal.

        Being a Nazi and a racist and actively trying to oppress and torture people and to deny human rights should not be considered more acceptable than going barefoot.

        1. fposte*

          You’re misunderstanding what I mean by access. It’s also possible that the philosophy is different for museums than for libraries, but I’d like people who actually work in museums to speak on that.

          So I’ll stick to libraries. Having no shoes isn’t, for most people, an ideology; being disruptive isn’t an ideology. We can’t ensure that every single citizen has access to our library, but we can’t use ideology to affect our service in libraries. It’s that principle that has meant libraries have fought for access to LGBT materials and that means that our largest professional association has an office of intellectual freedom.

          And that’s not for everybody, and that’s okay. But you can’t go into librarianship and expect to be able to remove books or fail to serve patrons based on your ideology.

        2. xkd*

          Being barefoot is a personal safety issue, as well as a maintenance one.

          (Also, while 59% of museums charge entrance fees, the trend is going down. [2016 american association of museums report] Also, of the 59%, most have days or times when they are free.

          I would also say I can assess if someone is barefoot. I cannot assess if someone is a Nazi, barring them proudly announcing it.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            But when they do proudly announce it? Then you don’t have an excuse to shrug and say they’re only hypothetical Nazis.

            1. fposte*

              It depends where the employee is, then, I think. If you’re running a restaurant, you can kick out anybody you want absent a civil rights violation. If you’re in a library, public access to all, regardless of inclination, is your mission until there’s a behavioral reason to kick people out. If you’re a museum, it’s going to depend on how your board and administration have considered the issue. (I’m sure the Holocaust Museum has reams of guidelines for that specific instance already, whereas the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum probably doesn’t.)

              But I think even if they’re proudly announced as Nazis that doesn’t always mean banning them (or deciding you personally won’t serve them) is the most advantageous response. That’s the hard place.

    8. Aveline*

      It’s also a VIP tour, not just admitting him

      So it’s more than being neutral to him, it’s a positive statement if his worthiness to private access.

      1. Asleep or maybe dead*

        Yes! Denying service would be barring the entry or denying a sale.
        By the amount of work involved, they’re going to have a special tour and reception. These are perks that not every patron is entitled to.

      2. Chinookwind*

        I agree in principle that a red carpet, VIP tour is not neutral. But, as I said before, is this done for prestige or because of security logistics? OP can talk more about this, but if him arriving during regular hours would do more harm to patron access or create a greater security threat, than a VIP tour makes more sense (in the same way that celebrities often get private hospital floors – this is the only way that their privacy and security can be the same level as your average patient as well as reducing the disruption to the other patients. Ex: there is no way I would want to share a room with Beyonce no matter how nice she is. The logistics and security for my family to see me would be a nightmare.

        1. Yorick*

          And they may frequently do private tours, for politicians, celebrities, donors, etc. This may be a fairly routine part of the job.

          1. General Ginger*

            Is it a good look to be courting someone (potentially) reprehensible as a donor? The day I found out my local library/museum/humane society/soup kitchen was giving a special tour to Alt Right Mc Fascist, because they wanted his donor money would be the day I stopped donating to them and would urge everyone I knew to do so, as well.

            1. Aveline*

              As someone who gives away 30% of the marital income per year, I can tell you that this is not a good look.

              At my museum, ALL of the donors (even the Republican ones) would throw a major hissy fit if they found out an intern was asked to cater to a VIP with repugnant political views.

              Most museum donors – particularly art museum donors – skew a certain way in terms of issues like this.

              This is a dangerous situation to be in for OP.

              I hope she’s following the fallout from the Mitch McConnell business. It’s quite interesting the reactions people are having to the businesses that were serving him.

          2. Aveline*

            But OP tells us this is not a routine tour

            “I am a curator at a large museum, and we are currently running a major special exhibition. There has been an enormous amount of public interest in the exhibition, and demand for tickets is very high.

            Recently I was asked by my higher-ups to give a private tour of this exhibition to a prominent and controversial political figure”

            This is special treatment

        2. Aveline*

          OP Tells us this:

          “I am a curator at a large museum, and we are currently running a major special exhibition. There has been an enormous amount of public interest in the exhibition, and demand for tickets is very high.

          Recently I was asked by my higher-ups to give a private tour of this exhibition to a prominent and controversial political figure”

    9. Curious Cat*

      Yeeeep, Jewish/Arab/LBTQ+ woman here. If this person were to come into my place of work and expect a VIP tour I would politely bow out and put myself and my safety first. I don’t agree at all with the way the intern handled this (physical threats from anyone on either side of the aisle toward another human being should never happen), but I think the talking between Manager/Intern should focus on the professionalism aspect.

      1. Observer*

        Even if I had reason to essentially disagree with the stand the intern is taking, I would say that the OP has no standing to address that. What the OP does have standing to address – and absolutely SHOULD address – is making threats and refusing to do her job while assuming there will be no repercussions.

      2. Specialk9*

        Which person? You literally have no idea. The OP didn’t say anything, you’re entirely guessing.

    10. Anonymous 176*

      +1. The current political situation has done me so much harm that I very nearly ended up dead (white LGBT woman here). There are some of us who can’t just shrug it off and say “oh well.”

  6. Pollygrammer*

    Threatening to attack him??? That is just shockingly immature and shows seriously poor professionalism and judgment.

    If I was LW’s position, it wouldn’t matter if she’d been the best the world has ever seen up to this point, I would seriously consider firing her for that and I would never dream of giving her a good recommendation. Am I just unusually harsh when it comes to threats of violence?

    1. Nita*

      Yes. That bit sticks out to me as well. I can see refusing to work with, or for, a few of today’s politicians, but that’s over the line and needs to stop.

    2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      No, you are not. This is a situation where the intern had two paths, both leading to the same end (opting out.)
      One path was professional. “I disagree with his politics and his person. I will not join a guided tour through the institution that will essentially be a parade for him.”
      The other path, “Oh, that guy is a douche. If I see him walking down the hall, I’ll kick his ass,” gets no sympathy from me.

    3. Secretary*

      I’m with you. Threatening to attack him is no joke, on either side of the political spectrum.

      On the left side, what if this was because he was gay and/or stood for gay rights? It wouldn’t be reasonable to keep someone on staff who threatens violence on someone who is gay.

      On the right side, what if this was because he was an NRA representative and thought that recent gun violence could not be solved with new gun laws. It wouldn’t be reasonable to keep someone on staff who threatens violence on someone who has different views on gun laws.

      I think it’s so silly to villanize someone for having different political views, then do similar or worse behavior to them back. It’s not moving us forward as a country.

      1. STG*

        I find it hard to swallow that a gay person has to tolerate and be civil to a politician who would gladly treat them like the dirt under their shoes (or worse).

        I have zero issue treating people with political views that directly seek to harm me as villains.

        1. atalanta0jess*

          Word. It’s not “just an opinion.” It IS villainous to actively seek to harm others and remove their rights.

          1. I'll think of a clever name later...maybe.*

            I haven’t seen “word” used like this since 8th grade. This made me smile. Thanks! :)

        2. Specialk9*

          They said the exact opposite. In that hypothetical scenario, the politician was gay and advocating gay rights, and the intern was homophobic.

    4. Always Anon*

      Not sure if this has come up in later comments, but threats of physical violence have the potential to get the intern in trouble with the law.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Eh, if the law dropped in on everyone who commented on a public figure’s eminently punchable face, they’d have no time for everything else they do.

        (Say, that gives me a good idea…)

    5. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      I’m trying to think of a scenario so extreme that assaulting a guest at work would be ok.

      I got all the way to ‘personally lynched your mom,’ and punching guests is still unacceptable. Understandable, especially if you were blind sided, but still not ok.

      I’m entirely sure this situation is way, way less fraught than that.

      Don’t assault anyone at work!

  7. I should probably go anon with this.*

    I’m a local radio personality in Louie Gohmert’s Congressional District. I have to interview Louie Gohmert with a straight face on a regular basis. I have had to set with him at a banquet and make polite conversation. I think he is a nutjob. Be professional and do your job, no matter who it is.

    1. SeaChelle*

      This actually feels like an area I can see people taking a stand on at work! ‘I don’t want to give a platform to amplify the voice of a racist. Could I sit this one out and we have another person can interview him?’

      1. Turquoisecow*

        And then they let that person do all the interviews, and you don’t have a job.

        It’s easy to take a stand when your livelihood isn’t on the line.

        1. TootsNYC*

          But why shouldn’t you take a stand? The fact that you won’t lose your job shouldn’t mean you don’t speak up.

          Oh, sure, telling someone else that THEY should take a stand, when you’re not in the actual situation, is a little problematic. But I think people are mostly defending the idea that anyone might WANT to take a stand.

          I’m white. I’m not going to be giving special treatment–no, not even photocopying off papers for his info packet–to a white supremacist. Even if I won’t get fired for refusing. I would say that ESPECIALLY since I might not get fired for refusing, it is even more important that I take stands against things that are evil.

          1. I should probably go anon with this.*

            I’m confused by this comment. I am THE person responsible for these types of interviews, and refusing them would be refusing a primary job function and WOULD result in my being disciplined and quite possibly fired. I ask him tough questions. I’m definitely not his fave interviewer and I don’t take it easy on him. But I’m polite, respectful and cordial. I didn’t like his predecessor either. His predecessor and I agree completely on politics, but his predecessor cheated on his wife, whom I know well. I still interviewed him professionally when required.

            1. Jaydee*

              The only counter to speech we disagree with is more speech. If you refuse the interview, then the only airtime he gets is with like-minded reporters who *won’t* ask tough questions or call him out. I fully support you doing the interviews, being polite, respectful, and cordial, and also being ruthless in your questioning so that maybe a handful of listeners who are actually decent people but didn’t think his ideas were terrible would say “you know what, I’m kind of thinking maybe I don’t agree with his position on that….” I think when you’re in any form of media like that, you have a unique opportunity to question and and challenge ideas that you disagree with in a forum that’s accessible to the public. Take advantage of that.

        2. galatea*

          I mean — is it worth keeping a job where you’ll normalize and allow active bigotry?

          That’s not a pat question, my job certainly doesn’t align 1:1 with my moral view of the universe, but also as someone who’s lgbt, who isn’t white, etc, I gotta say, hearing people argue that their job security > my ability to exist without harassment or active state-sanctioned bigotry is not the best feeling in the world. Where is that moral line drawn?

          In the past I have been very hesitant to compare things to Nazis, the internet is full of terrible Godwin’s Law arguments, but also: there are literally Nazis at the doorstep, here, and genuinely grappling with what it means to act like things are normal is, imo, worth doing.

          1. I should probably go anon with this.*

            I do my job well and ask him tough questions, but, honestly, at the end of the day, my focus is much more about feeding my 3-year-old than refusing to interview Louie every month or so because of my moral high ground. I’m sure as hell not going to vote for him, but it is not possible to work at a LOCAL, small news station located INSIDE his district where he is the ELECTED representative and not interview him. Asking me to leave a job over that is a bit much.

            1. galatea*

              Sure! That reasoning totally makes sense for your situation and your life, we all make tradeoffs and judgment calls. Asking people to give up literally everything to fight for goodness and justice is untenable.

              But I think there’s a big, bright line between grinning and bearing it when you genuinely don’t think any alternatives are good ones, and the blanket statement of, “Be professional and do your job, no matter who it is.”

            2. Buckeye*

              And, having grown up in Gohmert’s district, I think it could be beneficial to have his interviewer be someone with a healthy dose of disdain towards him, as opposed to someone who supports him blindly.

            3. AMPG*

              Please note that nobody is actually asking you to leave your job. They’re pointing out that you may have a different personal calculation to make than this intern, and therefore the statement you made based on your own life might not be applicable to her.

          2. Specialk9*

            There may be Nazis, but that is entirely speculation. Nothing in the letter says so, it doesn’t even say US.

            1. galatea*

              Absolutely. It’s also naive in the extreme to act as though it’s definitely NOT Nazis, or the various far-right groups sprouting up like poisonous mushrooms all across the globe.

              And my point still stands: at which point is speaking up and doing something, even at personal cost, worth it? When do you (or I, or any of us) decide that a situation is extraordinary enough to stop being so ~civil? Clearly this intern feels strongly.

              1. Specialk9*

                did you mean to reply to my comment? Otherwise I’m not sure why you’re calling me naive and that I’m saying it’s definitely not Nazis. That’s not at all what I said.

                I’m pointing out that everyone is making an awful lot of assumptions, to the direst end of the spectrum. There’s a world of difference between how we all collectively should be handling genocide, and those who recommend genocide, and someone with a different political belief that one’s own. Jumping straight to Nazis makes it really hard to have a discussion. Not to say it couldn’t be Nazis, because 2018 is another dumpster fire of a year.

                And yes, my Jewish self is very aware of what’s going on.

      2. TootsNYC*

        then again, you might be serving your community by interviewing him and letting people see his nut-job-ness very clearly.

    2. Jen*

      My spouse used to lobby Congress as part of his old job. He loved some politicians and said for others it was like talking to a brick wall (he is an engineer). But in his capacity representing the interests of his organization, he had to be polite and patient with every single one of them.

      1. Political consultant*

        Being a lobbyist is not exactly the same thing as being a museum curator asked to give a VIP tour.

    3. Amber T*

      But why? Really, why do you, your bosses, everyone, have to give him a platform? What if enough people said no?

      1. I should probably go anon with this.*

        I never said my bosses don’t agree with his views. He was elected by a landslide here and is insanely popular. Like, people in his district LOVE Louie. I don’t agree with him at all, but I do have kids and bills to pay. I do my job.

        1. AMPG*

          But that’s still a choice you’re making. It would be equally valid for you to say, “I don’t want to participate in giving this guy access to free media coverage, and if that means I have to leave this job, then I’ll pay that price.”

          1. I should probably go anon with this.*

            That price would definitely mean losing my insurance (I have Crohn’s Disease and the meds are $75K a year without insurance and aren’t currently covered under ObamaCare, I’ve checked before). It would likely mean losing my home and not being able to feed my kid. I’m glad you live in a perfect world where you can quit a job because you don’t want to interview one person, I don’t live in that perfect world.

            1. AMPG*

              I’m not trying to cast judgment on your choices in any way or suggest that you’ve chosen wrong, and so the personal attacks are uncalled for. I’m pointing out that you do technically have the ability to make that choice, and so it’s unreasonable to judge someone for weighing their own options and choosing differently.

              1. Turquoisecow*

                It’s not really a choice if giving up the job means going into poverty, being in extreme pain, and possibly dying.

                1. AMPG*

                  It’s pretty rare that there’s only one job in a given community. Again, not passing judgment on “I should probably go anon with this.” for weighing the cost and making the best choice for them in their own circumstances. I’m saying that the blanket statement of “be professional and do your job, no matter who it is” is not one that should apply to everyone.

                2. Jennifer Thneed*

                  @AMPG – being an on-air personality for a small local radio station may, in fact, be the kind of job where there’s only one job in a given community.

              2. I should probably go anon with this.*

                Oh, I definitely detect judgement. that said, I didn’t attack you in any way, form or fashion.

                1. AMPG*

                  Well, I’m telling you in so many words that none was intended, but obviously you can believe whatever you want. And sneering at what you assume to be my personal circumstances is personal, more or less by definition.

            2. Just Go Asia!*

              Anon I’m with you on this. When it comes to crazy expensive med bills and a family to support, job security comes first. Sure, you have a choice but when the consequences are losing your medical cover and your ability to support your family, you chose work. In my world too, it’s a no brainer.

          2. Jennifer Thneed*

            Okay, so, he’s making a choice, but it’s the same choice someone makes to quit when they are in a “constructive discharge” situation.

            Please let this go. You’re poking hard at someone who is sharing good info here — are you trying to make them regret their choice to post? Are you trying to drive them away from here?

    4. nnn*

      Note: I’m not from your country and don’t know the details of this individual, so there might be mitigating circumstances I don’t see.

      But in this specific case, could you be more useful by doing your job very, very well, and making it a tough interview that emphasizes to your audience why this person is a problem?

  8. Amber Rose*

    A workplace is not a playground. If you can’t cope with your dislike of people without running away and threatening to beat them up, that reflects extremely poorly on your own character and puts you on roughly the same level as people who have no idea how to behave in polite society.

    Is that what your intern wants? To be on the same level as the people she dislikes so much? A child in adult form?

    I have no patience for people who only know how to solve their problems by whining and being violent, even if I agree with them. I don’t care who you hate on your own time, at work you work.

      1. Just Go Asia!*

        But we’ve seen how this isn’t necessarily true. People have lost jobs for actions outside work. If intern went and posted hate speech about the visitor on her social apps and was easily identified as a museum worker she could still lose her job.

    1. Political consultant*

      “Is that what your intern wants? To be on the same level as the people she dislikes so much? A child in adult form?”

      Yeah, because refusing to give a racist a VIP tour is exactly the same as putting kids in concentration camps. They’re both sooooooo unpwafessional.


      1. Amber Rose*

        Refusing to do any of the work involved AT ALL and just dumping it on her coworkers even though doing so accomplishes nothing and sends no message is childish. As for concentration camps, that has nothing to do with anything I said, so, way to strawman, I guess.

      2. Specialk9*

        Wait who said the VIP is racist? Who said that being an child in adult form was the same as putting children in concentration camps?! WTF mate!

        Did you magically intuit who this politician was despite the OP carefully not giving clues?

    2. Lou*

      I have no patience for people with no moral backbone, or who equate taking a stand against bigotry with being childish.
      Please examine the place of privilege you’re coming from with this response.

      1. CynicallySweet*

        I’m confused by your statement, no where in there did she say taking a stand against bigotry is childish. She said “running away and threatening to beat them up” is…and they are. That’s not an effective way to take a stand, if you ask me in any context, but most certainly not in a work one. Instead it’s a good way to get fired tbh, and not letting the intern in on that is doing them a huge disservice.

      2. Amber Rose*

        Tell me how refusing to do some logistical paperwork that nobody knows about except the few people the intern works with takes a stand against anything, and then we can go on from there.

        If the intern refused to do the tour and then presented a neat, logical case for why this tour is a bad idea to upper management and was fired or otherwise penalized, I’d be behind her 1000%. But threatening violence and running away from work is not helpful or taking a stand, it’s ridiculous behavior regardless of your beliefs. I do not support hypocrisy in any form, from anyone.

  9. C in the Hood*

    What alarmed me was the intern’s threat of violence. To me, she seemed to be serious, and it doesn’t look to me that anyone is taking this seriously. I don’t care what your views are; this is a big, fat red flag.

    1. Yorick*

      I don’t know how you came to that conclusion with the information provided in the letter. It’s very common to say “I’d punch that guy in the face” even if you’ve never been violent in your life.

  10. Headphones On*

    There are politicians I would not meet or work with – and I would quit my job before agreeing to. Many of them, actually. But I wouldn’t threaten violence, especially to my supervisor.

  11. jack*

    I might not have many people agreeing, but I’m taking the intern’s side on this one. What is she is a member of the LGBTQ community and you’ve got a Mike Pence-like figure there? Or is she a young woman of color and one of the Steves is there (Bannon/Miller)? Frankly, if I was put in this type of position I wouldn’t be able to keep my mouth shut, and it would probably be better for the museum as a whole if I was not involved. Maybe she could have been more professional in how she spoke to you or others, but I have no problem with what she wants here.

    1. selina kyle*

      The thing that stands out to me about joking about violence is that it sounds like the intern might feel not taken seriously in denying that she wants to work with/for this person’s visit. It might be her way of trying to say “look I’m very serious and I don’t know how else to express it”.

      1. jack*

        I’ve said stuff like, ‘if I see X person, I’d have to spit in their face’. I don’t know if I’d actually be able to do it when the time comes, but I’m saying it because I want people to realize how serious I am about how I feel.

    2. Amber Rose*

      Even to the point of not setting up before hand, or doing any of the related paperwork etc. that is not related to being in the same room with him?

      That’s like saying I don’t like the dude doing the plumbing tomorrow, so I’m not going to do any of my filing today.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        And saying you’re willing to offload your job duties on to other people because of the context in which they’re required. No. Just no.

      2. Blue Anne*

        It’s really not.

        -They’re providing a VIP service to this person, not receiving a service from them
        -The intern doesn’t want to do anything related to the VIP, that doesn’t mean they’re refusing to do any of their other work
        -The VIP isn’t a random person, they’re likely to be a person who has proclaimed and work towards policies at a national level which are harmful to this intern and/or her friends

        I mean I guess you could say it’s somewhat similar to “that plumber grafitti’d a slur on the front of my house, so I don’t want to process the work order for him or have to see him when he works on our pipes” if the plumber being there was somehow a huge special privilege for that plumber.

        1. Amber Rose*

          If some dude graffiti’d my house, I’d expect him to be in jail, not doing our plumbing. If he stood outside my house and insulted me and everyone like me, I’d still do my damn paperwork because I’m not an infant who throws a tantrum just seeing someone’s name on a piece of paper.

          There are better ways to cope with terrible people than running away and crying about them. In fact, there have been numerous accounts of terrible people having their minds changed by positive interactions with the people they previously spoke against, and somehow not a single account of someone’s mind being changed by poor treatment.

            1. Amber Rose*

              Depends what the graffiti is, but fair point. Still, there would be a civil lawsuit anyway, and dude would probably not keep his job.

                1. fposte*

                  Sure. That’s absolutely the step you’d take–you’d go to small claims for the cost of cleaning it off if the plumbing company wouldn’t cover it. (I’ve totally lost track of what this argument is a stand-in for, so I’m responding literally. Small claims is full of stuff like this.)

          1. Asleep or maybe dead*

            So, you are telling me that I and everyone else who’s part of a group targeted by systematic bigotry should be as nice as possible to bigots so they can change their mind?
            How many of us will have to face hatred and violence to our faces just so one bigot changes their mind about our right to exist?
            No thank you, that is not on me, not on anyone of us.
            Also, that’s a lot of tone policing right there.

            1. Amber Rose*

              No. I support you not wanting to talk to them or be in the same room as them or privately wish they die in a fiery inferno.

              I don’t support you being violent publicly, threatening violence, or pointlessly refusing to do paperwork. You accomplish nothing by being violent and hateful. You may accomplish something by being nice if you want to.

              I don’t think you know what tone policing is either. But I like how you assume I’m not part of a group that faces violence and hatred.

            1. Amber Rose*

              Tone and actual threats of violence are different. I don’t care if you sound angry. I care if you’re violent. Violence achieves nothing.

      3. Nita*

        Hmm… I guess this goes beyond “don’t like.” I don’t like some of my clients, sure, and may even disapprove of something they’re doing, but I stay professional because I’m not in the business of passing judgement outside of court. Sometimes though, as Alison says, you may end up having to work with someone who’s acting so far outside the pale of what’s normal that a normal response (like staying professional) doesn’t seem appropriate.

      4. jack*

        I’m not really in a role where anything like this would happen, BUT if something like this did happen, I’d have to consider telling my supervisor that I am not interested in having any sort of function with the visit. I’d personally be willing to lose my job over this, maybe other people aren’t. And I agree with people down below that this isn’t a public service issue. This person is getting special treatment at the venue and I’m not interested in making sure that Bad Person gets a nice lunch or special access to a gallery or whatever.

        1. Decima Dewey*

          Yes, to some extent Bad Person is getting special treatment. But we’re not talking about a restaurant, where the staff can vote to refuse Bad Person service. We’re talking about possibly handing Bad Person a PR gift, if they can say that Institution X, which receives money from taxpayers, refused to accommodate Bad Person solely because of his/her political beliefs. And that an employee of Institution X made threats against Bad Person.

          I work for the library, but I am not my library. Part of my job is to enforce policies I don’t necessarily agree with. Behind the scenes, I can try to change those policies.

          1. Nita*

            Right, let’s say this is a public institution, or a private institution with some public funds. It’s got to be possible to politely tell Bad Person something like: “We are sorry, no one is available to give you a private tour, but you are welcome to tour our exhibits during regular business hours.” No need to actually turn them away and turn it into this whole PR thing, but there are ways to avoid both that and the special treatment.

          2. jack*

            Also a bad headline – “Instituition fires [gay/Muslim/black] intern because they would not give tour to [homophobic/Islamaphobic/racist] Bad Person”

            I’m not saying Intern is one of those things, but that’s some bad as hell PR too.

            1. fposte*

              But who is going to write that headline? I don’t see much coverage of intern firings anywhere, not even in DC.

              1. soon 2 be former fed*

                It would be news if the headline read as jack posted. It’s the reason for the firing that is newsworthy. Just a call to the news desk would do it.

                1. fposte*

                  I don’t think it would in most places I know. Any journalists here who can weigh in? I think it has a bigger chance of being a Twitter storm but it would have to be disseminated to a big influencer.

      5. tired anon*

        I think it’s a question of if the intern is trying to avoid seeing/interacting with the VIP, or in any way assisting the VIP’s tour experience. Refusing to do prep work is part of refusing to exist int he experience. That doesn’t feel the same to me as just pushing off work onto someone else, because it’s literally part of the protest. One of the consequences for doing it may be that your coworkers don’t like you any more — which I guess is understandable, if they don’t agree with your protest — but that’s part o the overall calculation of if you take the stand or not.

        1. Yorick*

          But someone has to do that prep work that she would normally do, so it’s not JUST part of your protest. It’s pushing work on someone else so that you can protest. And, since this is an intern, she may push the work on someone else who doesn’t support Politician but can’t refuse because they need this job to live.

          1. J.*

            But isn’t the point of protest to force change? Marchers shut down highways because *the people in the cars on highways* complain to their politicians about the delays. They’re secondary targets to get the point across.

            Intern is too low down in the hierarchy to make change, but by refusing to do the work, she is forcing that work on someone else. Maybe they’re the ones who suck it up, maybe they like the guy, maybe they have enough clout to change the VIP policy in a way that the intern can’t.

    3. C.*

      I can both agree with the intern’s perspective and agree that she is going about it in a really immature way that basically undermines valid concerns she has. It’s cool that she doesn’t want to be involved. It’s also cool to learn how to deal with that in a professional way, and in a way that doesn’t put her $*@ out of a job.

      1. Jen*

        I think this is exactly my point. There are professional and non-professional ways to handle it. This was not the professional way.

      2. Pollygrammer*

        I’m guessing somebody with this level of immaturity would wear getting fired for “standing up for her beliefs” as a badge of honor. Sigh.

        1. AMPG*

          I actually think it could be an honorable course of action for her to accept being let go from the internship as the price of living her values. The key is to handle the whole thing with maturity, which she’s not currently doing.

          1. Pollygrammer*

            But there are so many better ways of living your values. Getting fired is going to get you nothing except maybe some personal satisfaction and Facebook likes. It’s certainly not going to help anyone else.

            Donate your salary for that day to a cause you believe in.

            1. tired anon*

              What makes that a better way? That’s something people get to decide for themselves. For a lot of people, losing a job as a protest is not feasible but donating is — so that’s a totally reasonable thing to do. But if the intern *can* afford to lose the internship, why shouldn’t they? (And what if the internship isn’t paid? Nothing to donate there…)

            2. AMPG*

              The great thing about individual values is you don’t get to decide how others live up to theirs (at least within the confines of the law). There are people who would feel that this is the appropriate course of action to take, and I’m not going to judge them for it.

          1. Specialk9*

            I would too. But I wouldn’t consider getting fired for threatening violence as a win for political protest.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Not only would I wear it as a badge of honor, I would speak out and tell everyone exactly what happened.

          If that makes me immature, I’m okay with that.

        3. soon 2 be former fed*

          It is a badge of honor. Where do you get off calling the intern immature? She has values that means something, which is admirable in this me first society. Ugh.

          1. Specialk9*

            Because she threatened violence? Because someone with her exact political convictions, of great strength, considers her to have acted unprofessionally. Because Alison said it was juvenile and it certainly reads that way.

        1. Lou*

          What exactly is the distinction here? How is “I cannot work in any capacity related to this person because of my morals” not taking a stand? It sounds to me that she wasn’t ‘respectable’ enough in her actions that you’ve downgraded her to throwing a fit. When it comes to opposing certain things, respectability means zilch.

        2. serenity*

          For “threatening” violence? (Which may have been a very tasteless or inappropriate joke). The word “fit” seems pretty dismissive of what may be some very legitimate concerns.

          1. soon 2 be former fed*

            I have said “I would kick so and so’s ass”. I have never had a physical encounter in my life. It’s a freakin’ figure of speech people! All this overwrought pearl clutching about “threats of violence” is ridiculous. The person the intern is against is probably poses a lot more risk of harm than the intern. This commentariat likes to bring gender into everything, so I daresay that the intern being female means that she is far less likely to be making a real threat. Geesh.

    4. Justin*

      Not going: whatever.

      Not helping with background logistics: eh, no.

      Note, though I’m a man, I’m a POC, and, oh, let’s say a Steve King (R-IA, very comfy in his anti-POC views) was there, I’d do my job. But I’d probably try and leave if there were many such people invited. I wonder if this is common there or if it’s a one-off.

      I think it’s fine if she feels she can’t do this, but it’s also fine if the OP feels she can’t have such an intern.

    5. A Username for here*

      Yes but presumably, that would be a special workplace accommodation and the LW would be sympathetic, especially since in a situation like that, the onus would be on the workplace to prevent their protected-class employee from encountering a hostile or discriminatory interaction while on the job.

    6. Juli G.*

      And that’s the coaching. There’s a grown up way to handle this at your job and then there’s a childish, unprofessional way to do it. And I’m not one to get caught up in the civility handwringing but when it’s your job, there’s a right way to take a stand and a way that will backfire.

    7. Zip Silver*

      Is Steve Miller particularly controversial? As far as I can tell he enjoys joking and midnight toking.

      1. Specialk9*

        I went to a Steve Miller concert once. It was outdoors, in a giant field, and even so there was a giant grey haze over the whole field. I now know for sure that Steve Miller loves daytime toking too.

    8. LCL*

      I disagree with the intern’s stance because she is working (internship but that is effectively work) in a venue that provides a public service. When you work for the public, you don’t get to deny your customers service based on their politically repellent views, or their past criminal actions. This is a learning moment for the intern about what public service entails, and how work sometimes involve doing what you dont’ want.

      1. Jen*

        Yeah, I am an attorney and ethics lesson 1 is “you will not always like your clients but you owe any client diligent representation”.

        1. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

          But unless you’re me (a public defender) you can decline to take on a person as a client.

          1. Eliza*

            This varies by country, by the way. The UK has something called the “cab-rank rule” for barristers, where if you have the necessary knowledge, skills, and resources to represent a client and they request representation from you and are capable of paying, you’re required to accept them as a client.

        2. Thornus67*

          I worked for a law firm which represented ERISA plans. After Windsor and Obergefell came out, and the subsequent IRS and DoL rulings regarding how those cases applied to ERISA plans, we had to amend some plans to recognize same sex unions. One attorney, who had more years than me but was still a Young Attorney, had religious objections to same sex marriage, so, while she accepted it as the law, she asked a partner to not be assigned any determination cases involving same sex unions. The partner could’ve, and should’ve, pointed out what you said as a teaching and/or come to Jesus moment. Instead, the partner just got mad and said “you work for me, and if you want to keep working here, you’ll take the cases I give you.”

        3. Aveline*

          That doesn’t mean I have to represent Nazis.

          I refused a client once who was a known racist. She tried to report me to the state bar. They laughed at her.

          Unless you are a public defender, you actually can refuse to represent ™ people you find repugnant. Or simply because you don’t like the cut of their Jib.

      2. Environmental Compliance*


        This is what working for the public means. It’s a public building. It’s a public service. The people you disagree with, find morally bankrupt, think are abhorrent people….well, they’re still members of the public. Threatening violence (!!) against someone is not an acceptable work joke, and isn’t an acceptable response. Declining the tour? I totally agree with Intern. There are definitely certain politicians that I would decline being in a room with. Refusing to do any of the work Intern would normally do because it’s for Political Figure? Inappropriate. There’s a time and a place for everything, and when you’re working for the public, you can’t protest a Political Figure by refusing them a service available to the public.

        Intern needs to think of it not as work that since it is connected in a way to Political Figure is morally against her values. The work itself is the same work Intern would do for a Political Figure they support*. You still need to do the work, and find a way to protest it in a meaningful/productive way. Refusing a public service because you don’t agree with someone is counterproductive at best.

        *this is making an assumption that the work required is the same work Intern would normally be doing.

        1. Aveline*

          Giving VIP tours is NOT a public service. Admitting him on the same terms as everyone else is.

          What this museum is doing is not neutral to him, it’s saying he’s special.

          At some level, it is approval.

          We are not talking about refusing him admittance. We are talking about giving him preferential treatment for free. Which means the paying customers and donors are paying for it.

          This is nit a but real act. It’s not the same as serving a burger or baking a cake for a gay wddding. Is actually being asked to cater to him because he’s special.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            Yeah, I’m not super jazzed about the VIP part of the tour. Part of me understands that having them just waltz in during normal public access may be significantly more disruptive than it’s worth, especially if there’s a potential for loss of funding, but (a large) part of me also wants to not allow VIP tours for politicians that are complete asswipes and absolutely disgusting people. You can’t turn them away entirely, and there’s the risk of harming funding.

            I want the intern to be able to stand up for their moral/ethical/religious/etc beliefs. I want them to stand up for it in a purposeful, driven way. I just can’t see refusing to do the background work, which is never going to get back to the politician, actually accomplishing that.

      3. Muriel Heslop*

        I’m a teacher and I’ve had students and parents with violent criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, human traffickers, rapists and a few skinheads. If I decided that I could not reasonably provide services to someone, I would be fired (and I doubt the public would have a lot of support for me.)

        If you want to be able to refuse to provide services to someone for any reason, no matter how offensive, don’t go into public service. What if our police took the same stance? Our firefighters? EMTs? Doctors? We would descend into chaos.

        1. Nita*

          Yes, being a teacher is one of those vital jobs where you really can’t refuse to provide services to anyone. Or almost anyone – wouldn’t a school eventually expel a student who was endangering others? This is really not the same as giving someone a personal tour of a museum, though – they’re not going to suffer a whole lot of that tour doesn’t happen, and they can absolutely walk into the museum during regular office hours like any other visitor.

        2. General Ginger*

          This isn’t like providing normal teaching services. This is a special VIP tour. So more like, in addition to daytime teaching, can you please specially tutor the skinhead/gang member/whathaveyou.

          1. Muriel Heslop*

            I can’t decline to tutor a student. I could choose to make a big deal about it, or I could ask to have someone else in the room if I was to be alone with a dangerous student (which may or may not be accommodated.)

      4. Future Homesteader*

        Yeah, I think that’s a key part here. It’s one thing if it’s for a private company, but a cultural institution is supposed to be a place of learning. I feel for the arguments that if she’s a member of a marginalized group and might not feel safe around this person, she has a right to opt out of physically being there, but she certainly went about it the wrong way. Also, it doesn’t sound like they’re celebrating or promoting this person, they’re giving them a private tour. OP feels like this might be an opportunity for this politician to learn something, and that’s not nothin’. I think the intern needs to decide if she can handle this professionally and still do her behind-the-scenes work, or if she needs to work elsewhere.

        1. AMPG*

          A private tour is still a special service that not everyone is eligible to receive. I agree that he has to be admitted to the museum as a regular patron, but not that they’re required to provide special services to him. And that may be part of what the intern is protesting in her desire not to help with any of the logistics surrounding his visit – the very fact that extra logistical arrangements are needed indicate that this person is being treated as a VIP.

      5. Lemon Sherbet*

        The intern just doesn’t want to treat this guy like a VIP.

        I’d equate it to being a barista and giving your favorite customer an extra squirt of whipped cream for free, while not giving that to a customer who’s mean to you. You’re not denying service to the mean customer, you’re just not giving him special treatment.

      6. OhNo*

        I’m glad someone else was thinking this, too. As a librarian, I’ve run into this before. Never with someone well-known or famous, but still.

        There is a definite requirement in working at certain public service organizations that your facilities/services be open to everyone. Yes, even racists or skinheads or anti-Semitic people or whathaveyou. You can ask to be recused from working with them directly, but in the end someone has to serve them, and you might not be able to avoid it.

        But even if you are able to avoid interacting with them directly, you don’t get to refuse to do the back-end work because someone you disagree with will use it. I don’t get to refuse to shelve books because racists might read them, and this intern doesn’t get out of doing the back-end work for the tour because it might benefit a bigot either.

        Does it suck? Sometimes, yes. But that’s the nature of the game in these kinds of professions.

        1. J.*

          But they are asking for a VIP tour. That would be like asking for you to keep the library open late or let them in after hours and rearrange special privileges that not every library patron gets. And that’s a pretty important distinction.

          1. Cat Herder*

            Eh, I imagine that other people get a VIP tour. For security reasons, perhaps, or just because VIPs get special treatment. Giving VIP tours, doing something or extra for a bigwig is likely not unusual. I don’t think the VIP tour aspect of it makes it substantially different from the institutions usual work.

            The intern can certainly state her position. It’s the manager’s job to let the intern know how to make these kinds of requests professionally and appropriately, and to call out the intern about making threats, even if they aren’t meant seriously. Joking, exaggerating, speaking in the heat of the moment — doesn’t matter, don’t do it. And the manager does need to help the intern understand that this kind of position can get one fired. It might not at this job, but it could at another job.

            And if the intern wants to take that stand, props to her.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Yes, how dare people whose very lives are on the line joke about violence.

        1. Doe-Eyed*

          Can’t these people play nice with someone who wants to strip away their human rights? Yeesh. My frock is all askew from the impropriety.

          1. galatea*

            Not apologizing for bleeding on someone’s boots after they’ve curbstomped you is what’s contributing to the fall of America

        2. neverjaunty*

          She’s not joking about violence or fighting back at a protest, she’s threatening to assault a customer at her job. The “joking” is, by the OP’s own admission, hopeful thinking on the OP’s part.

          1. Mulher na Selva*

            A VIP is not a customer in this situation, and in the U.S., businesses claim the right to reject customers all the time. I’ve had supervisors at jobs where I was doing service work who would absolutely refuse customers based on their shitty behavior.

            1. neverjaunty*

              You don’t see a distinction between “I can’t in good conscience serve this person” and threatening violence?


        3. Observer*

          The smugness of this comment and all of the follow up ones is very interesting to me. You are so stuck in your superiority that you are ignoring the fact that I’m NOT the only person in a target group who happens to think that the threats of violence are beyond the pale.

          1. Doe-Eyed*

            I don’t think threats of violence are ok. But I’m taking the LW at her work that she felt these were made jokingly. Hopefully if she felt they were legitimate threats she would be contacting the police and not a workplace columnist. Many, many, many people protest and are angry at political leaders right now (right or wrong) but none have resorted to violence that I have seen.

            I understand that it only takes one person acting irrationally to hurt someone, but I’m choosing to take the LW at her assessment of the situation and with the understanding that I have heard a LOT of people say things like “Man if I have to see that guy I’m going to kick his ass” as a venting mechanism.

            It is still inappropriate at work, I still think it’s appropriate to discuss with her, but assuming she’s a violent person based on one comment seems to be as overreactive as reporting a murder if someone says they think their parents will kill them for coming home late.

            1. Observer*

              Actually, the OP does NOT say that the remarks were a joke, but that they HOPE they were a joke. That is just utterly out of line in the workplace. Even a clearly obvious joke would be inappropriate. Something that could be taken seriously? No.

              Combined with then refusing to do the rest of her job, and you get someone who may not be violent, but who is definitely not a reasonable person who an employer should go out of their way to accommodate and who clearly doesn’t understand appropriate behavior.

              1. Doe-Eyed*

                Yup, I agree it’s out of line at the workplace and explicitly said so. I am again HOPING that if the LW found this to be a legitimate threat of violence she could contact the police and not an internet advice site.

                “The rest of her job” – then she’s welcome to leave the job, I just find it somewhat ridiculous that people are treating this intern like she’s an unhinged lunatic just waiting to leap out and attack. Even if you assume her threat was 100% sincere, she also said it was if she was “forced to spend time with him”. Presumably since the tour was offered to her as a perk the LW wouldn’t be petty enough to force her to attend the VIP tour just to prove a point.

                1. Observer*

                  You know, I would have much less problem had she decided to leave the job over this. Without knowing more, I can’t say that I would ADVISE it, but people are entitled to act on principle, as long as they are willing to deal with the fallout, and not place the burden on someone else.

      2. jack*

        I am going to try and stick by Alison’s request. But there are people out there (many of whom are in power) who have made decisions and policies that have actively harmed and even killed people like me. I’m interested in defending myself.

        1. Mulher na Selva*

          And that’s the thing – we aren’t talking merely about beliefs. We are talking about beliefs that compel specific, documented, and harmful actions against others. To reduce this to being merely about belief is utterly disingenuous.

      3. Amber T*

        If you haven’t thought at least once “I’d really like to punch that politician in the face,” you’re not paying attention.

          1. Amber T*

            I agree (to an extent – I’ve had quiet conversations with colleagues who I know have similar viewpoints as mine and we’ve hushed up when others come around). But to Observer’s point that muttering it out loud is never ok? That I disagree with.

            1. Observer*

              That was not my point, because that is not what happened.

              Please don’t put words in my mouth.

          2. Do Not Tolerate Intolerance*

            Yeah, the person who says it at work is actually living up to their principles, not just mouthing them while acting like everything’s just fine as Nazis take over the country.

            1. Amber Rose*

              The world in your view seems terribly sad, where your only two options are constant violence regardless of location, or allowing nazis, and there’s absolutely no other actions anyone can take.

          3. Yorick*

            I agree, you should avoid saying that at work. But I don’t think we can conclude that Intern is dangerous and that people who agree are ok with violence with the information that we’ve been given.

            1. Amber Rose*

              I don’t think anyone believes the intern is dangerous. I just think that bringing up joking threats of violence at work is a seriously bad judgement call.

              Every place I’ve ever worked at has had a strict rule about that kind of thing. It’s hard coded into our employee handbook.

      4. Like what even*

        The fact that you don’t understand why someone would jokingly threaten violence as a form of catharsis makes it pretty clear that you’ve never been in serious risk of your human rights being taken away and government-backed violence being perpetrated against your community.

        This country was built on violent revolution (and also genocide, but we’ll leave that alone for now). The civil war was won with violence. Nazis were beaten with violence. It’s easy to say “take the high road” when your life isn’t at risk.

        1. Specialk9*

          That really patronizing, and you know nothing about those of us criticizing this intern, or what genocide we worry about at night.

          1. Like what even*

            If you look, I was responding to this: “That she wants to commit violence is ok with you? That says EVERYTHING I need to know,” which is not only patronizing and condescending, but also ignorant of history and those that have sacrificed their lives for the human rights and dignity of others.

            Respectability politics is what’s patronizing. Telling people to “take the higher road” when their lives are at risk is patronizing. Judging people who understand being in the position where you’re so scared for your own safety, that the only way you can cope is through gallows humor is patronizing.

            1. Specialk9*

              Oh, apologies, it got so disconnected from the prior comment due to threading that I didn’t realize what you were responding to. Yeah I can see why you responded that way to that statement!

              1. Like what even*

                No worries. This is all so heated. And I’ll admit that I’m the type of radical who’s probably a little more comfortable with the idea that sometimes violence is required (Black Panthers, Stonewall riot, etc) and that pacifism is often a privilege of not actually being in imminent physical danger. I respect that we all have different limits with that though, I’m just frustrated by this idea that if we aren’t nice to our oppressors, we lose all credibility.

                All of which is still to say, I absolutely think Intern would benefit from a conversation about how those comments are perceived in a workplace, and that your job (unless you’re literally a hangman) is not the place for gallows humor, especially when it comes to violence! I have a dark sense of humor and was really grateful when I got called out about an off color (though not political or
                violent) joke and how it might make people uncomfortable.

        2. bonkerballs*

          But she wasn’t joking. The intern said she would physically attack the guest if forced to be in the same room with them and because of that she needed to be excused from participating in any and all parts of this event. Like, that is her REASON for not participating in the event. If it’s just a joke, then she needs to not say it when trying to explain to her boss why she can’t participate.

          There’s a difference between shooting the shit with your friends by joking about punching nazis and telling your boss you can’t do your job or else you will be forced to resort to violence.

          Plenty of people who have a lot to lose from our current administration (myself included) are smart enough to know the difference.

    9. Arielle*

      I feel like the line the commentariat is generally drawing is that not participating in the tour is a reasonable boundary to draw but the intern should still be expected to do work that doesn’t involve direct interaction with the figure in question. As a queer woman, I would not feel comfortable being in the same room with Mike Pence, and depending on how the conversation went, I feel like he might be pretty uncomfortable being in the same room with me! I do feel that he has the right to visit a museum or see Hamilton or whatever, and if my job involved making preparations for that visit, I’d be okay with it.

    10. the_scientist*

      Joking about violence is unacceptable, period….BUT, IMO calls for “civility” in political discourse are very often a way of perpetuating white supremacy. After all, if you paint people of colour, First Nations, LGBTQ+, etc. as “uncivil” you can dismiss their concerns outright and refuse to engage because of a “lack of civility” or “tone” (spoiler: your tone will never be correct for these people). The intern could belong to a group which this political figure believes is deserving of fewer human rights than others, and that in itself is implicitly violent. The intern may feel that she can’t work for an organization that supports certain political views (no matter how indirectly). If those political views are literal threats to her personhood, I can’t exactly blame her.

      I don’t disagree that the intern should lose her job if she even jokingly threatens violence again, but I think this is a good learning opportunity for the intern– potential for the intern to think about how to balance her moral commitments with the need to earn a living, with her commitment to the mission statement of the organization she works for, with her responsibility to her colleagues, etc.

      1. Amber T*

        YES. The joke about violence was dumb and immature. But I really appreciate your comments on “civility.”

        1. OhNo*

          Agreed, your explanation was excellent. If you don’t mind, I might borrow your phrasing for the next time this conversation comes up with my relatives!

      2. Aveline*

        Tone policing and asymmetrical civility are being used by the current administration to great effect.

    11. Jesmlet*

      I’m a member of the LGBT community and a woman of color and I’d still suck it up and do my job. Being antagonistic to people who disagree with you, want to deprive you of your rights, wish you harm, etc. only serves to raise your blood pressure and nothing else.

      1. jack*

        personally, as a queer woman myself, I wouldn’t be able to ‘suck it up’ but I don’t begrudge you your ability to do so. I don’t agree that being antagonistic would do no good; I don’t think bigots should be allowed to walk around and not receive any negativity for their views and actions and will do my part to make a world in which that is not acceptable.

        1. Jesmlet*

          My thing is… what would change if I yelled at a racist, homophobe, sexist, etc.? Are they going to feel bad? If they’re okay with their views, then probably not. Are they going to feel threatened? Not by someone who looks like me. All that will happen is my voice will be a little hoarse and I’ll be irritated the rest of the day. I’m a live and let live person for my own self-preservation, because barring outright violence, shouting negativity at someone who is already entrenched in their crappy views will accomplish nothing.

          1. Original Flavored K*

            Sometimes, yelling at somebody for being *ist isn’t about making them not be an *ist anymore — it’s about the value I get from standing up to *ists. Sometimes getting loud, walking out, sitting in, or carrying a sign isn’t about actively causing something to change; it’s putting down in your ledger that you were not okay with this and you made that as clear as you could.

    12. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I feel that she should still use her words. She can and should say that welcoming this person into the institution, even for the purpose of gaining his support will hurt the mission in the end. She can speak on behalf of young, college educated women. And she should. She should bring an outside perspective to the organization. But threatening someone is not the way. Saying she will attack him if she sees him is not the same as saying, “I know that many of my classmates and friends/peers will have a strong reaction against the institution when they discover it providing VIP treatment to someone who (is anti LGBTQ, immigration, people of color, be specific). How does the institution plan to respond to this?”
      I think that would be a great discussion to have with an intern.

    13. Kate R*

      I agree with you, particularly because there are many prominent people in Washington right now hoping to do very real harm to marginalized groups (like the ones you mentioned). Even her “threat” of physical attack didn’t faze me much because I’ve certainly thought at one point or another, “Man, I’d like the punch that guy in the face,” though I would never actually attack anyone in real life. But I also agree that the OP should talk to the intern and explain a) that she should be more careful about joking about physical attacking someone as it is unprofessional, and b) that at their institution, it will be required to host guests with different political affiliations, and the intern needs to decide whether or not she can handle that if she wishes to continue her employment there. I wouldn’t even bother with the discussion about whether it’s a slippery slope of refusing service to people based on their political views because I think that’s a debate that’s not really relevant to the problem OP is having.

    14. sb*

      Yeah. Especially if the violent comment was specifically something like “we don’t help ***s, we punch ***s”, because that is a conversation that’s been happening and if the letter writer isn’t familiar with the context it would seem more violent/out of the blue than it would otherwise be.

      (It still means threatening a physical attack, but if she specifically said “punch” it may be more about this philosophical discussion and less that she actually means to punch your visitor.)

      *** = a word I’m guessing the autofilters will flag, but often used about, say, Richard Spencer.

    15. TootsNYC*

      Maybe she’s NOT a member of the LGBTQ community, and you’ve got a Mike Pence-like figure there? And she feels strongly that members of the LGBTQ community shouldn’t be persecuted or made to feel unsafe?

  12. Girl from the North Country*

    Maybe OP could reframe it to the intern as helping her *coworkers* out rather than doing something to help the politician. Sure, she may not like this individual and I’m certain there’s very good reasons for that, but if she doesn’t help out with XYZ tasks that would normally be hers, then someone else will have to do them. This is about working as a team towards a common goal – I would feel pretty embarrassed to have others doing extra work because of me, so maybe she would too.

    And +1 to this: “at the very least, this is a good opportunity for us to showcase to him the value of well-funded cultural institutions.” Sometimes when you’re in a crappy situation, it can help to look to whatever positives may possibly come out of it.

    1. Birch*

      Yeah, to the last point, I think this is a good opportunity to discuss how to balance personal safety/standing up for something truly evil, as Mostly Lurker said above, with the chance to publicly show how much better you are than that person, basically–being the bigger person. Weigh the consequences on either side by thinking about what message it sends. If you use this as protest, is it actually doing anything? Is it keeping you or others safe, or will it just look like you called off work that day? If you do the job, is it a public acknowledgment of how awesome your museum is? Is it emphasizing your values to preserve history and educate people? Which of those statements is more powerful and more important to you in the long run?

    2. Rosemary7391*

      And presumably the tour is a neutral thing – it’s not supporting or attacking the political viewpoint of the VIP.

      Sometimes just interacting with someone unpleasant with professionalism/dignity is a good way of showing them something useful.

    3. Clare*

      But none of this is about helping the politician. It’s about helping the institution the intern works for. It’s about drawing attention to the museum and possibly getting a person in a high-level position of influence to support the museum and its mission.

  13. LSP*

    I am a staunch progressive who once worked in a Republican-led legislative office. The office is in a state where our Republicans would likely be considered Democrats elsewhere, I desperately needed a job, and the Republicans I worked for were very moderate, even for my state.

    All that being said, it was incredibly difficult for me, and there were a few places where I put my foot down, and others where I just had to suck it up and do my job. For instance, everyone else in my office was Republican, and very active in the party. They would happily volunteer their own time on the weekends campaigning for the elected-officials we worked for. Since I was already experiencing physical side-effects of stress from the job (not just because it was for a different party, but because the workplace and the individuals I worked with were incredibly toxic, regardless of party), I needed my time off, so I refused to volunteer my time. However, when I was introduced to our Republican Governor at a work event, a man who I find repugnant in every conceivable way, I smiled, shook his hand, and moved on with my day.

    This intern might feel that her righteous indignation is completely justified, especially given the current political climate, but she needs a big dose of perspective as well. People can hold strong political viewpoints and still understand when and where it makes sense for those viewpoints to take center stage.

    1. Political consultant*

      “I am a staunch progressive who once worked in a Republican-led legislative office.”

      Which is, again, *entirely* different from the situation at hand.

      You knew what you signed up for: a political job. Moreover, the discourse within your office was of the type on which reasonable people might disagree.

      Someone working at a museum who’s asked to give a VIP tour — an honor — to a Steve Bannon-esque figure? Not what the intern signed up for, and not within the bounds of civil discourse.

      1. Clare*

        It’s not an honor. It’s a standard business function that happens regularly when working for an institution that relies on public support and funding.

        1. misspiggy*

          Yes, exactly. If the intern wants to continue in this field, she will have to support many similar activities to massage the egos of repugnant people so that they don’t decimate services too badly. OP would do well to make sure the intern understands this.

  14. DNDL*

    To start: I do not agree with joking, or not joking, about causing physical harm to befall someone on the job.

    That being said, I don’t agree that refusing to service someone for a private tour based on their politics is the same as turning them away entirely. If this political figure wants to visit the institution as a normal guest, then fine–don’t turn them away based on political view points. But offering a special, behind the scenes, private tour for an exhibit that the general public is struggling to get tickets to? Turn them away–period!

    Though, of course, that is not OP’s decision or the intern’s decision. That is the board’s decision. But, personally, I do not view refusing VIP services to people the same as turning them away altogether.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I like this comment a lot.

      I admit that my visceral reaction as a targeted demographic of this administration is one of “oh hell no” but this is a measured and reasonable response.

    2. Cassandra*

      This is where my mind was going also… a far more strategic way for the intern to approach this would have been “I am uncomfortable providing special perqs to someone who… do we have grounds to refuse?” I don’t think the OP is required to coach the intern on this — a threat of physical violence is a firing offense in my book — but in case it helps someone in a similar situation.

      (For those interested in libraryland, ALA just set a pile of tinder alight with the claim that public libraries offering community meeting space cannot refuse to allow hate groups to use the space. Let’s not derail the comments for this, but by all means check out the fire on Twitter.)

      1. Pollygrammer*

        I think an intern trying to overturn a governing board’s decision is getting into dress-code petition territory.

        1. Observer*

          Yes, but at least it’s a conversation that could help the intern understand what’s going on.

          Also, the intern ASKS POLITELY, and doesn’t make demands, unlike the dress-code petition.

      2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        I commented similarly above. I agree completely. This conversation between the intern and the staff would benefit both parties. The intern would see how decisions like this are made and the staff could see how their decisions are viewed by the intern’s demographic.

      3. Autumnheart*

        Well, you don’t need to refuse to allow hate groups to use the space. Just tell them they need to jump through eleventy hoops to reserve the space, “lose” their reservation every single time, and if they show up, make them leave after 10 minutes for “being disruptive”.

        What are they gonna do, sue? K, let them waste thousands of dollars on lawyers to hang out in the public library. Spend their money for them.

      4. DNDL*

        My library refuses public room access to groups that advocate violence against others. IE–A conservative group wanting to end ACA, and a liberal group wanting to promote single payer both get equal access to a room. But a *hate* group that’s stated goals are things like racial separation by any means necessary would not be allowed to use the room.

        There’s a difference between offering fair and equal access, and allowing a hate group to spew their nonsense all over the place. I wish the ALA would differentiate between freedom of speech and freedom from consequences.

        (Also, we answer to the city, not the ALA. A fundamental problem with the ALA is that they have no teeth to enforce their pie in the sky ideals.)

    3. Whit in Ohio*

      For a lot of famous people the only way they can actually see museam exhibits is a private VIP tour. If they come as a normal guest they’ll spend all their time talking to the public and the media. This is also true for amusement parks and ridesm

      1. DNDL*

        And my reply to that would be to make the social cost of being a nazi as high as possible. I mean, assuming we are talking about a Richard Spencer type figure, and not a Mitch McConnell type figure (where the difference is one is a self-identified white supremacist and the other cares more about staying in a position of power than service is state), then I think it is perfectly reasonable to say, “Enjoy our exhibit as a normal guest, or don’t enjoy it at all.” People like Bannon, Spencer, etc put themselves in a very negative limelight, and they can deal with the consequences. It isn’t up to the rest of society to treat them like special VIP snowflakes because they bring the public’s wrath upon themselves for their egregious, racist views.

        That being said, I do agree with you if this is an *elected* political *professional* and not a talking head.

      2. Not A Morning Person*

        So true, even for minor local celebrities it can be a challenge just to eat in a restaurant because they are constantly interrupted by fans. Think local market anchor person or weather person.
        I agree that the intern needs to be coached. An immediate termination might just create a more hard stance or create a martyr position. “I GOT FIRED FOR STANDING UP FOR MY CONVICTIONS!” Start with the coaching and explanation of appropriate professionalism in the face of those kinds of choices and help the intern understand. Then, based on intern’s response, OP will have a better idea of how to proceed, whether firing is appropriate or coaching on how to handle those difficult choices, and the varying grades of what is the right thing to do based on how extreme the situation might be. Because of course there might be cases that are so egregious that you would rather quit than participate, and others that are still distasteful or offensive, that you can just do your job. We don’t know how offensive or damaging the “celebrity’s” views or actions are, but that’s for the OP and the intern’s consideration.

      3. Blue Anne*

        I would say that for this kind of thing, that should be an expected cost of doing business. Going into politics or political commentary, especially at a national level, is going to put you in the public eye. That’s kind of the point. So, if you’re a national political figure and want to go out in public, you need to deal with the public on their terms.

      4. AMPG*

        I don’t mean this to be as crass as it sounds, but cry me a river. This is a life they chose.

      5. AvonLady Barksdale*

        It’s also to avoid disrupting the public. I worked at a big amusement park, and VIPs were handled very deliberately for both their own enjoyment (and the enjoyment of their kids, who deserve not to be mobbed) and for the enjoyment of others. No member of the public who spends money or time to enjoy a museum or an amusement park should have their day ruined because everyone wants to get a photo of or with Mr. Famous, or to discuss his political views with him.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yep, I wondered about that too. I assume it’s better for the museum and other patrons for exactly those reasons, but I’m just guessing.

        2. Environmental Compliance*

          Exactly! It’s shitty because you don’t want to give special treatment to the VIP, but at the same time you don’t want to disrupt all the rest of the public that want (and deserve) to visit that day.

          1. Chinookwind*

            I have been that visitor to Ottawa to see our Parliament building and have half of the tour cut off because some out of town dignitary was visiting and security was tight. I literally had to visit our capital 3 different times before I got to see the the Library because of security concerns of visiting politicians (from other countries) during regular hours. When I worked in Ottawa, this type of thing messed up a lot of us when commuting because of road shutdowns. This is why I am all for after hours VIP visits – it allows for regular visitors to have regular access without risking the safety of those VIPs.

          2. DArcy*

            If it’s a private facility (since amusement parks and museums were mentioned), they would absolutely be within their rights to say, “We’re sorry, but your visit would be extremely disruptive to a safe and pleasant experience for all our other guests. We will not be able to accommodate you.”

    4. Observer*

      I think you have a good point. Unfortunately, people who think that that threatening violence is the way to approach issues tend to not be open to reasonable discussions.

      Which is a reason why a *visit* might do more good than trying to have a discussion with this visitor – experiences tend to have more impact.

  15. Pickles*

    I can understand taking a stand – more professionally – but this intern is really missing the resultant effect known as “consequences.”

    1. vw*

      Precisely. Part of what makes protest so profound is that the people who are protesting are putting themselves at risk. They’re willing to accept the potential consequences of arrest, unemployment etc.

  16. Episkey*

    This is such an interesting question & scenario! I see both sides here. I can understand where the intern is coming from & also the side where “be professional” is coming into play. As for the threats of violence, I mean, I have jokingly said, “I’d love to punch XXX in the face,” but I would never actually do something like that, it’s almost more of a figure of speech. I wonder if that was her kind of remark?

    1. Observer*

      That’s not what it sounds like, given that she put it in the context of “what I’ll do if I’m ~forced to be in a room with him~”

    2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Even if it was a joke or a figure of speech it’s 100% not appropriate in the workplace and it is a threat of violence. I actually have more tolerance than most for things said out loud, but I have reprimanded employees for saying this exact same thing and have a zero tolerance, as should all employers and managers.

  17. Observer*

    Allison, what about the fact that she’s refusing to do her job? Refusing to meet this guy is one thing, refusing to do any of the back end work is another. I think that merits more than a conversation about professionalism.

    By the way, if someone actually quit over something like this, I might give them a good reference, even if I didn’t agree with them. (of course, it depends on the specifics, but overall I can respect someone who acts on conscience, so if everything else makes sense, I could do it.) On the other hand, threatening violence even as a joke is a total non-starter. If it were up to me, that person would be forever ineligible for re-hire. And *refusing* to do her job would also be a huge black mark.

    1. MicroManagered*

      She can choose to refuse to do the work… but that choice might have consequences. I think that’s the thing LW needs to make clear to Intern. Like, if you play this card, you need to be prepared to have your bluff called. If you’re not really playing the “Complete Refusal” card, then you need to express your concerns maturely and ask if an accommodation can be made.