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.

{ 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

                  Possibly…

                  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

        +1
        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.

        Seriously.

        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.””

                Preach.

              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. 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

          Ding!

          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.

      Sheesh.

      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

        +100

        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?

              ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        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.

    2. DArcy

      I would point out that refusal to do even indirectly related back end work is exactly what the “conscience clause” laws conservatives have been pushing for make a protected right. You cannot discipline an employee in any way whatsoever for invoking conscience clause AND they have absolute immunity from liability for any negative consequences their refusal may cause to anyone else, even if it would normally fall under professional responsibility.

  18. Bones

    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.”

    This hit the hardest to me. If I were asked to tour around someone like Richard Spencer, I would have a very similar reaction to the intern. Sometimes social niceties aren’t worth it.

    1. Nonny

      I totally agree– but the intern isn’t asked to tour this person around. She was invited to join the tour and declined which was fine. But refusing to do any admin– aka, just shunting work to her coworkers to make a point that the politician is never even going to know about– just feels a but immature.

        1. Hey Karma, Over here.

          I think that immature is used to describe both the threat of violence and refusing to do tasks related to the visit. It does seem like a temper tantrum, not a political statement.

          1. Bones

            I’m Jewish. I would absolutely refuse to associate or assist in any way with an anti-semite’s visit. It would not make me immature.

            1. MicroManagered

              Of course not! But how you expressed that might be. It’s one thing to say “I’m sorry, I’m Jewish and this person is a well-known anti-semite. My morals just won’t allow me to have anything to do with this person’s visit. I understand that I’m refusing to do my job duties, but I’m prepared to lose my job over it.” vs. “I will punch that guy in the FACE if you put me in the same room with him. I’m not doing anything to help him.” (with no acknowledgment/understanding of the fact that refusing to do your job might cause you to lose your job.)

              I think that’s the difference.

                1. MicroManagered

                  Nope not really. The difference to me is about understanding and accepting that actions have consequences and not understanding it. That’s all the wording is meant to express. Perhaps this intern *is* fully prepared to lose her job over her this choice? But that seems to be missing from the letter. To me, outright refusing and saying you’ll physically attack someone indicates that she does not understand consequences–since in many jobs, threatening physical violence at all is grounds for termination.

                  But that’s all I have to say about that. Agree to disagree.

                2. Hey Karma, Over here.

                  You are disagreeing in a clear and non-threatening way, though. You are describing your personal feelings without making personal attacks.
                  That’s the difference. If you were in the intern’s position, you would take a stand. You would understand the consequences and accept that you might lose your internship.
                  I don’t think LW’s intern quite understands the seriousness of her protest regarding her position and her career.

            2. Specialk9

              I’m Jewish too, and I agree that this intern undermined what could have been a principled stance by sounding like a bratty immature kid.

      1. Amber T

        “…aka, just shunting work to her coworkers to make a point that the politician is never even going to know about…”

        I get that participating in a tour around a museum doesn’t sound like a lot, and that one intern out of everyone working there also doesn’t seem to equate to much. But what if it was more than one person? What if the intern said “I refuse to help organize this tour,” and so did everyone else. What if no one organized the tour? What if everyone just point blank refused?

        So the politician doesn’t get their tour, doesn’t get their photo op, and is put out a bit. Big deal. But the museum over is inspired, the restaurant down the street is inspired, businesses all over are inspired to stand up and make like a little harder for those who are taking advantage of others.

        I get that there are a lot more politics (heh) in play in museums that a private business wouldn’t necessarily face, so I’ll refer to the others in the comments on how that could be handled. And while the threat of violence was not appropriate, without knowing all of the details, I think a lot of the comments are getting distracted by that and are missing what’s actually important in the letter. I actually really applaud this intern for taking a stand – I don’t know if I’d have her courage.

        1. Nonny

          I’m absolutely not against taking a stand. And if the intern wanted to try to organize a mass demonstration against this from within, then that’s something she should explicitly do, and recognize she might lose her job for it (which maybe she’s fine with!). But it sounds like that’s not what’s happening.

          1. Amber T

            I disagree. Sure, sometimes gathering people is a good course of action. But sometimes being that single, unwavering voice is just as powerful. If she went around saying, “we’re all not going to do this, right?” I think that would be over dramatic. Had she said “I think we should take a stand against Politician and not offer him a VIP tour, and I refuse to participate because of his involvement in x, y, and z,” that may have made a larger impact. It might not have. OP is within their rights to fire them I guess.

            And I do disagree, OP – there does come a time where your personal views can and should impact your professional life. For your intern, that’s now, and given the severity of the political climate (assuming you’re in the States), it’s not surprising.

    2. Jennifer

      Yeah, normally I’d be all “suck it up,” but this is so freaking heinous I don’t think I could. Especially if she’s in a targeted population (which she is as a woman but might be in other areas too).

      Also, I assume that if you got into interning at a museum, you weren’t going into the job expecting to have to take Stephen Miller (or whoever) around on tour. It’s not like she signed up to intern in a political job and is pulling this.

      1. Specialk9

        What’s so freaking heinous? You don’t have any idea who the politician is. Everyone is speculating like mad but nobody but OP knows.

    3. Lora

      THIS. Thank you!

      Look, even the Queen of England, upon meeting an IRA member who actually attempted to assassinate her, snarked at him. You don’t actually have to be nice to people trying to kill you.

      There’s people I won’t work with under any circumstances. I have the luxury of being able to not take such jobs, or quit such jobs if they sour. It’s absolutely a privilege. And that’s something you should talk to your intern about. But hey! Maybe she does (did?) have other internship opportunities, and if she had known ahead of time that this particular internship included “giving private tours to Neo-Nazis,” she would not have taken the internship in the first place. Maybe she would rather flip burgers the rest of the summer than organize a wine-and-cheese meet-n-greet for Senator Himmler or whatever. That’s on her to decide.

      She should communicate that decision professionally, sure. And you can talk to her about that too. If the result of the conversation leaves you short-handed, well, bummer.

      I’m wondering if she feels like this internship was a real bait and switch – that it was described to her as a public service organization and she figured she’d be, you know, doing actual nice things for people and now she has to host a screening of Stolz der Nation for Senator Goering and his pals.

      1. Chinookwind

        “Look, even the Queen of England, upon meeting an IRA member who actually attempted to assassinate her, snarked at him. You don’t actually have to be nice to people trying to kill you.”

        But she still met with him because that was part of her job.

  19. Editrix

    I might stay away from giving examples about things that you feel the two of you agree on. Even if you’re on the same side, you’re likely to have different ideas of what constitutes harm and how far you’d go in response, and if you give an example that she feels isn’t on par with what this guest has done, it could undermine the argument. Or just lead you two off on a tangent when what you need to do is stay focused on how the museum approaches these issues and how she should or shouldn’t behave in order to, as Allison says, get her desired result.

    There are absolutely people who, if they walked into my office, I would walk right out and not come back until they’re gone. There are also people who I absolutely would not work with. But unlike your intern, I have the standing to make those decisions. And your line of work makes it so you have less choice in your clientele.

    One thing you might want to do, after you have this conversation with your intern, is have a conversation with the powers that be over how you might want to handle things like this in the future. With this particular guest, obviously your institution doesn’t have a problem with accommodating them. but it would be a good idea to have a procedure in place for that future day where this is someone who you would need to refuse entry to. Or, to know now that such a person does not exist.

  20. MuseumChick

    I work in a museum. You need to stress to her that a HUGE part of the field is making the museum accessible to *everyone*and, if your mission is in opposition to this persons political stances it could be a great opportunity to plant seeds that could grow into changing his opinion. Museum are inherently political (look up the story of the what artwork the Guttenheim offered to Trump) but you must treat all visitors with dignity until they do something that warrants other wise (extreme example: ranting the the holocaust never happened in the holocaust museum).

    Tell her that many people visit who we will disagree with personally but that doesn’t mean we can turn them away or not serve them. Museum are public institutions and if she want to work in this field (which is HIGHLY competitive) she is going to have to be willing to work with people she disagrees with.

    1. Autumnheart

      Last time I checked, the Nazis were big on preserving art too. That doesn’t mean they changed their mind about the people they stole it from.

      1. MuseumChick

        Again, my answers are from a museum professional perspective. If we say that this museum can/should reject this politician we would also have to be OK with the National Air and Space museum refusing a tour for an anti-war politician. You cannot have it just one way and the accepted stance within the museum world is to NOT do what this intern is doing.

    2. kerlin

      Also a museum employee and I profoundly disagree here. I have job duties that, it sounds like, share some overlap with the OP’s. I’ve supervised interns, arranged special tours, etc.

      There is a Grand Canyon-sized chasm between the following two options:
      – opening your doors to anyone who would like to come in, and treating them all equally
      and
      – involving multiple staff members to roll out the VIP carpet

      The former should always, always be a baseline. The latter should be an option if the museum has considered things like: has this person done active things to harm the community I serve? are their views antithetical to the very core of my museum’s mission?

      Museums have been in the past all too willing to “launder” reputations for people. No one currently serving in the Trump administration is going to change their mind, ESPECIALLY not if they’re kowtowed to and given special access and privileges by cultural gatekeepers. They’re not going to see the virtue of a well-funded public institution. They don’t care. They simply don’t. The sooner we let go of that fallacy, the better.

      Let this person come in through the front door, pay their admission, and see the museum/exhibit like any other member of the public. If they choose not to do that, then that is their choice. “I’m sorry, we’re unable to do a special tour.” Rather, rinse, repeat, firmly, matter-of-factly, and simply. No need to get into specifics. You’re just not able to accommodate that request.

      (As many others have pointed out, the intern needs some serious coaching/conversation about the boundaries of professionalism, but that’s a whole separate question from whether she’s wrong or right to do what she’s doing in the first place.)

      1. Specialk9

        The OP’s only clues were: male, controversial, politician, ***NOT*** Trump. I’m not sure why you think who the politician is? Or what country?

    3. Other Museum Lady

      Agreed. I also work at a museum and in a day and age where museum funding can be few and far between, this type of public outreach is extremely important. You cannot refuse or turn people away due to political beliefs.

      1. MuseumChick

        It’s not just about funding too! You always want to show that your institution will educate anyone.

    4. Ennigaldi

      Museum worker here in Development. These tours happen for all kinds of reasons, and something like this is probably approved/arranged by the Development Director or the ED. In other words, it’s not optional for the curator. Being a curatorial intern at a major museum is a very big deal and the aim of the internship is to learn first hand from the curator what it is curators DO (a lot of politicking, a lot of schmoozing, as well as the fun parts like exhibitions and travel and research). Not only that, this intern should be prioritizing making the best impression possible at the museum if they do want to stay in the field, because it’s a SMALL DAMN FIELD. Since the intern decided to react this way instead of say, bringing up their reservations calmly with the curator before refusing work, they are probably not going to get the most out of this opportunity. (someone has probably said that already, but I’m not reading all these comments because yikes and also funnily enough I was at a curator tour this morning and have to catch up on work)

      1. MuseumChick

        Yes to ALL of this. I am in collections/curatorial/registrar work. It’s a tough field to find work in and everyone knows everyone else. Thank you for this comment Ennigaldi.

      2. kerlin

        I agree with an awful lot of what you’re saying – curatorial internships at major museums are a big deal, it’s an incredibly small field and tough to break into, and there is an awful lot of schmoozing involved in curatorial work. More than most curators would like!

        But here’s the thing. Museums are not doing well right now. We’re falling behind the curve on so many metrics. We’re sticking to old models of work that isn’t drawing the way it used to; our audiences are shrinking and not diversifying to reflect the changing demographics of the country; and yeah, as others have pointed out, funding is really hard right now.

        The intern went about it in an unprofessional way. We are agreed on that. But she was absolutely right to express her feelings on the matter. How are we going to move forward if we continue to just play business-as-usual? If museums really want to educate and enlighten, and really want to reflect and value their communities, they should actually take steps to do that. I’m not saying close the doors. The doors should be open, as they are to everyone (pending disruption of public safety, of course). But you do have the option – and some would argue, the obligation – to choose whom you give a seal of approval to. People who associate, at a VIP level, with your museum, are tied to your museum. If your community sees you slobbering after the money and fame of someone who has done truly horrible things to them, then where are you? If museums are supposed to be working in the public trust, and you go above and beyond to break that public trust, what’s your relevancy argument then?

        Put it another way, does the Holocaust Museum have an obligation to give a VIP tour to someone like Richard Spencer? They’re a large, prominent museum. I am going to assume they receive some government funding, at least in the way of grants. They are open to the public. But if he reached out and said – quite credibly – “I’d like a special tour, because I feel that I won’t be able to visit the museum otherwise” – do you have an obligation to say yes? What about David Duke visiting the National Museum of African-American History? That’s directly government-funded. He’s been a candidate for Senate, so you could argue public standing. How about if Steve King (representative from Iowa) wanted to get a VIP tour of the Tenement Museum?

        VIP stands for “very important person,” after all. If a museum gives out that treatment, they have designated the receiver as important. People pay attention to those whom museums deem as important. If we simply throw up our hands and say “everyone with money is equally special!” then we’re perpetuating some really awful things, and we have to live with those consequences.

        (I don’t mean at all for any of this to be directed at you, even if my wording is at times forceful; if it appears that way, I apologize. It’s simply something I feel quite strongly about and am trying hard to work out in my own museum work.)

        1. fposte

          I think those are really interesting questions, and I bet most museums would struggle internally with them. I suspect with libraries it will depend on decisions by category of the VIP–if they give senators special tours, they’d decide they have to give all senators special tours–and I would strongly encourage and try to arrange a very public VIP tour by somebody on the other side soon afterwards.

          You have some good examples of museums where they may choose to go beyond that to individual calls, though. I’d imagine those would be topics of serious discussion for the administrators and the board, because there are plenty of instances where turning somebody away gets them a lot more beneficial publicity and you’d want to make sure you felt that it was still worth it. (That being said, “I can’t go through the museum on my own because people hate me” wouldn’t warrant a VIP tour anywhere to me.)

        2. Ennigaldi

          Thanks for the comments! I could talk all day about the ethics of how museums handle these issues, it’s an ongoing conversation and it’s fascinating and difficult and there are so many factors involved. I’m the kind of person who has to be led away from the Parthenon Marbles in the British Museum because I can’t stop ranting (my husband is very patient).

          1. fposte

            Have you seen Trust? There’s small thread about Getty’s attempted purchase of them (I note your nomenclature there :-)), which boils down to Getty’s not having to give a damn what Greece thinks.

  21. vw

    I wholeheartedly agree with the LW that the best thing they can do as an museum is to showcase the value of public cultural institutions like museums. These are frequently things that conservatives want to put on the chopping block as a “waste” of public funds. Demonstrate to this politician why it’s important to fund museums and other cultural artifacts. THIS is the political action and the protest, not refusing to participate (or worse, derailing). Remember, “When they go low, we go high.”

    There are also professional ways to protest. The LW and the intern should watch the Hamilton cast’s message to Mike Pence when he saw the show. Respectful yet straightforward disagreement that matches the theme of the show. It’s not the intern’s place to make that protest, but the example shows that it can be done.

    I’d encourage the LW to push the intern to work on and attend the event as it is part of their job duties, but I am very concerned about the threat of physical violence. Assaulting anyone unprovoked is wrong, but assaulting a well-known political figure comes with even more issues. This is not good for the museum and quite frankly would give the people who support the politician more political ammunition!

    1. Dragoning

      I hate to say this, because I admired the Hamilton cast’s protest, but, well.

      It didn’t exactly work, now did it?

      1. Chinookwind

        But would have worked any better if they had refused to perform? Or would that have just given his side ammunition?

        1. Lola

          EVERYTHING gives his side ammunition. Anything short of reverent agreement in all things is, for them, a talking point that can be dragged out for weeks as a sign that These People Are Just So Uncouth. They took a joke about Sarah Sanders’ makeup application and turned it into a terrible personal attack on an innocent wife and mother, how could you!!!!!! It doesn’t matter how nice your protest is; all they will see (and use) is a threat.

          1. Specialk9

            Yeah, there is literally no way to win there. When kneeling to the anthem is peddled, and swallowed, as horrific sacrilege, you know that nobody cares about being reasonable.

      2. Heather

        The goal of the message wasn’t really to change Pence’s mind. It was to make people aware of his stance on LGBT rights, and to publicly express their feelings on that stance. By that measurement, it was a huge success.

      1. Genny

        Maybe, maybe not. Maybe someone attending with him did, or maybe not. But would it have been any better to say nothing or to refuse to perform the show because he was there? The former guarantees the status quo and the latter both hurts everyone else who purchased a ticket and makes him a martyr.

  22. Blue Cupcake

    Threatening violence? She’s lucky the OP didn’t report her to the police. I know we all joke about stuff like that, but given all that’s happening in the news lately, there are those with zero tolerance and take each threat seriously.

    1. swingbattabatta

      I think there’s a big difference between “ugh, I’d like to punch his big stupid bigoted face” and “If I see this person, I’m going to harm him”. The type and tenor of the comment is what matters, and I think there are a lot of people in the US right now who have, at some point, expressed the former. The latter is obviously a hugely different situation, that should be addressed immediately, but I personally don’t blame people for expressing the former when thinking about, say, the potential loss of reproductive rights, babies being torn from their families, or the leaders of this country saying that Nazis are “fine people”.

      1. Blue Cupcake

        No I don’t blame them for mouthing off but you gotta be careful who and when to mouth off. Go home and vent to your family and friends. Not to your supervisor at work.

        I approve of saying they won’t work this one job because of XYZ but saying/joking you’ll harm someone overshadows any other reasonable points made. That’s not professional.

  23. RubyTuesday

    As a federal government employee, we’re told we can do (almost) anything off hours, but once we’re in the office, your politics don’t matter. Sure, there’s a great portion that don’t like the current administration, but do we threaten them if they were to be in our presence? No. Intern needs to understand the separation of and personal life.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago

      That is a reasonable stance if you work for the government. Presumably you were aware that was a condition of the job. It would also be a reasonable stance if you work in emergency services or medicine. But if you work in a restaurant or a privately-owned museum?

      1. LSP

        Do we know it’s a privately-funded museum? If they get grants from the government, then giving private tours to people who could influence that cash flow is definitely part of the job, regardless of their political stances however repugnant they may be.

      2. fposte

        Most museums are nonprofits with some funding from various government sources. I agree with you that there are some fields where such a refusal would be allowable, but think museums may be in the other category.

      3. Ennigaldi

        Almost all large museums are public institutions (unless maybe you’re Crystal Bridges), which means they are usually governed by a public-private partnership and either on public land or, like my institution, partially owned by the city (either collection or physical building). So yes, they do have to be very careful with political anything, and showing bias especially from a curator will reflect badly on donor relations.

    2. Anne

      I’ve often wondered about the kind of people who lined up to pour Zylon B in. Reading this thread, I no longer do. After all it’s only work, right? Your personal politics shouldn’t come into it.

      1. fposte

        You remind me of that saying that when the left wants to form a firing squad it first forms a circle :-).

        People who have a different take on this situation than you really aren’t mass executioners, and there’s a reasonable chance they’re allies.

        1. Ennigaldi

          That’s brilliant. A lot of people here are missing the point that giving a tour to someone whose politics you disagree with profoundly is an opportunity. You have their ear for an entire hour, at least! Preach the good of public access to culture!

          1. fposte

            Yes, I think resistance does and must take all kinds of forms. Derek Scott didn’t change his views because people punched him; he changed his views because he was exposed to other ways of thinking.

            I think there’s also a place for less affiliative forms of resistance, but historically personal shunning seems to strengthen rather than to weaken cultural enemies; I think it’s therefore at too high a risk of satisfying the shunner on the micro level while strengthening the shunnees at the macro level. And on the fly I can see making a “hell, no” decision for my own morality, but overall my activism is about external change, and I’m not sure that that would be in good service to the goal in many jobs.

      2. Blast Hardcheese

        I’m not stunned at all that most people in professional America are also the biggest bootlickers.

      3. The Other Geyn

        Yeah. As a WOC, I’m at a point where I feel like I can no longer judge my “allies” by their words, but by their actions. I don’t begrudge people for making a living, but there’s that and there’s “suck it up and do your job.”

  24. sam

    I’m all for figuring out how to protest public officials when it makes sense, including members of the public asking public officials to resign while they’re, say, eating dinner in public.

    But one of the things that should also be considered here is that if this is a museum that is funded with public money and large private donations (as many are), how attacking a major public figure would reverberate on the institution. That’s not “the cast of Hamilton making an extremely polite statement to the vice president”. That’s not even the owner of a small restaurant politely asking the press secretary to leave – as the owner, she was the person who is responsible, at the end of the day, for that business and for any blowback.

    But an intern “attacking” a major public figure? That sort of behavior could have significant repercussions for the museum, not just the intern and her job.

    (I’m thinking about this in the context of one of the Koch brothers being a MAJOR funder of cultural institutions here in NYC – David Koch has a theater named after him at Lincoln Center, he has a wing at the natural history museum named after him, and I think he’s also got a wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art named after him)

  25. Bend & Snap

    I actually think this is a valid point. If she’s personally victimized by any of this person’s actions or policies, it seems warranted–although I agree the professionalism needs to uplevel.

  26. Jesmlet

    Part of being a professional is having to interact with people who you wouldn’t normally choose to associate with, and depending on your line of work, that includes everything from the loud breather to the politician you wish would drop off the face of the planet. If she doesn’t want to go on the tour, I think that’s fine, but she needs to do her job.

      1. loslothluin

        You mean like Democrats who didn’t want end segregation? The similarities between the two are quite astounding when you research the history.

      2. Yorick

        I guess I understand why people are talking about Nazis, but they didn’t get that from the letter.

        I mean, what if OP and Intern are very conservative and the controversial nationally-known politician is Bernie Sanders?

        1. Bones

          I can’t think of a single stance of Bernie’s that would actively harm people, though.

      3. Jesmlet

        We don’t know who this person is so we don’t know how extreme their views are. It’s not reasonable to conflate Nazis with all conservative politicians. If we find out later on that this person has white supremacist views then I will back you up, but not until then.

  27. Clarice Fitzpatrick

    It’s difficult to evaluate the situation without the context of the politcian’s rhetoric, policies, and views on hand. Particularly as LW says she’s protested this politician too, that likely means it’s someone who’s not just disagreeable to LW or the intern but someone very concerning. Particularly if the issue concerns something as upsetting as, for example, the family separations at the border.

    I do agreeable that joking about physical harm is unacceptable in the workplace. It’s not unprofessional but can be alarming to others as a potential red flag for themselves. I also think it would be good to frame helping with the logistics as aiding to the coworkers who will have to deal with the politician. However, I can’t totally condemn the intern without context and what clues we are given that likely it’s a public whose behavior is very harmful.

  28. Bones

    Some of these replies are frankly incredibly dismissive. Someone who does not expect your existence does not deserve your respect in turn, and maybe her very extreme reaction is more of a reflection of this bigot’s views/actions than hers.

    1. loslothluin

      She’s a petulant child that needs to grow the hell up and act like the adult she is. If she did cause harm to the person, she’d be sued along with museum. You don’t know anything about the political views expressed by the person in question or the OP. You’re prejudiced in thinking anyone is a bigot based on zero facts.

      1. pleaset

        “She’s a petulant child that needs to grow the hell up and act like the adult she is. ”

        Depends who it is common. If it’s a person who’s is a major threat to the intern’s existence/human rights, you’re way off-base. Her communicative style might be a bit off, but we should admire people fighting for what’s right, and not be so dismissive.

    2. MuseumChick

      I see this issue from a museum professional perspective. It is unacceptable to refuse to serve a visitor to a museum unless/until they cause a problem with in the museum or some other extreme situation. Museum are inherently public (we cannot and should be pick our visitors) and they are inherently political. If the museum has a mission that is opposition to the politician this could be a great opportunity to educate, and while it’s unlikely the change the person’s opinions that day, the seed has been planted. Museums are the least challenged source of information, when you learn something in a museum you are less likely to question it and more likely to take it very seriously.

      What the intern is doing would be totally unacceptable in every museum I’ve worked in (including a museum that stressed rights for immigrants). It’s one thing to say “Hey, I don’t want to give this person a tour for X reasons.” and another to not do any work related to the persons visit.

      1. Bones

        What if it was instead on a volunteer basis? IE we recognize this person is controversial, only those who willingly agree to do this work will have to.

        1. fposte

          I think in some fields that’s fine. In other fields, such as health care or librarianship, where service is the principle, it’s not. I would tend to think museum work is in that second category, but I’ll defer to museum workers for their read here.

      2. hermit crab

        I think this is an important point. I volunteer in a public-facing position at a Smithsonian facility, and pretty much every type of person imaginable comes through our exhibit. We get whole tour groups of middle schoolers who thought it would be fun to buy MAGA hats from the guy with the tshirt cart on the corner. But it’s explicitly a public space that’s purpose is to serve everyone, regardless of whether it’s our biggest fan, or a person who wants to (for example) argue with the staff about how they cover evolution in the Hall of Human Origins, or a politician who opposes the overall mission of the organization.

        So I think the fact that it’s a museum makes this very different from, say, a restaurant.

        1. MuseumChick

          Exactly this! Museum are an off field where a lot of what applies to almost every other field doesn’t apply to us.

          1. EddieSherbert

            Thanks for sharing MuseumChick. I’ve really appreciated all your comments on this thread (I’m not in any way familiar with the ins and outs of working in a museum!).

            1. MuseumChick

              Thanks EddieSherbert. It’s a weird field! I’m a bit shocked by the (albeit very limited) comments attacking me for sharing an insider perspective from the field. We are not a monolith so of course there will be those professionals who disagree with me but what I am sharing is the majority view/way of doing things.

              1. EddieSherbert

                I find it very interesting and enlightening. Thanks for continuing to supply info/experiences as the comments grow.

      3. pleaset

        An institution’s duty to public service all visitors is not the same as providing a VIP tour to any VIP who asks.

    3. Jam Today

      I agree, there are “politicians” out there who represent an existential threat to people in this country. Their preferred policies, if enacted the way they want them to be, will result in suffering and death.

      I probably wouldn’t actually tell my boss I might attack Person X, but I would walk off the job with zero regrets, even if it leaves other people in the lurch. The intern’s political choices are her own to make, but so is management’s, and they should be able to absorb the consequences of their decisions every bit as much as she should.

      1. Observer

        Well, that’s the thing. Given the nature of the institution, this is a bit over the top but overall I have respect for someone’s decision to walk off a job over principle. But that’s not what’s happening here. That’s the key difference.

    4. Observer

      That’s nonsense. This is not about respecting the politician in question. It’s about threatening violence in the workplace and refusing to do your job without repercussions.

      In fact, if I couldn’t be dismissive of her, it would actually be something that might make the politician look better – Why should I condemn someone because some violent jerk doesn’t like them?

  29. epi

    Oh, I feel for this intern and the OP. This was a very nice response and I’m glad you acknowledged that there could be people it is reasonable not to want to serve, and it is still in the intern’s best interests to think about how to handle that. Lots of Americans are feeling chronically threatened, overwhelmed, and routinely having a terrible day right now. Then to be an intern, just getting used to how to behave at work, wanting to say what is probably your first principled “no” to something on the job and this is the context… I can’t imagine. The intern may also belong to a group, or have close friends or family belonging to a group, that is being directly targeted by this politician. The OP would not necessarily know that.

    I agree the OP will have more credibility if they signal that they understand the intern’s feelings, and they don’t have to get into an in-depth political discussion to do that. Two things really helped me early in my career, dealing with stuff I *knew* was wrong. One, don’t let anyone bait you into behaving poorly and making yourself look like the bad guy. Two, if you really care about something because it’s the right thing to do, you might have to take an unsatisfying route to get it done. You might have to appeal to authority, or let someone else think it was their idea, or kill the activity on a technicality. It doesn’t feel as good as a crusade, but do you want to be right, or do right?

    1. Heather

      This is basically what I’ve been trying to find the words to say throughout the thread.

      She’s an intern – she’s there to learn how the work world functions. I can totally see myself at 21 or 22 saying something about “ugh, I would kill that guy if he was in the same room as me,” and not realizing that some people wouldn’t understand it was hyperbole. This is a perfect opportunity to teach her both of the important lessons in epi’s post. If she’s willing to learn them, she’ll remember this internship as being the one that taught her critical truths. And if she isn’t, THEN you can fire her.

  30. bunniferous

    There are lots of people who I would never lift one finger to help them with their political goals. But that said, doing something like showing someone an exhibit? That is not furthering an agenda? That comes under the heading of Do Your Job, in my opinion. Your intern is acting unprofessionally and also with immaturity. But the good news is you are in the position to push back on that and teach how a true professional handles these sorts of things.

  31. KHB

    So, I have an enormous amount of sympathy for the view that national figures who are doing great harm to a lot of people shouldn’t have the expectation of being treated with “civility” or “professionalism” in their private lives. I admire the intern’s courage in wanting to take a stand.

    But it’s hard to take a stand when you don’t have enough power to rock the whole boat. Maybe she was hoping to get enough others on board with her that the visit would have to be cancelled?

    As for the threat of violence: I hope that means she said she’d slap him in the face, or something like that, not that she’d try to seriously injure him. Not that that’s OK either, but I can at least understand it.

    1. Heather

      Yeah, I would want to know exactly what she said before I decide she was threatening violence.

  32. EBStarr

    I’m not an expert on how nonprofits and museums work, so I can’t tell: Is this VIP tour something the guy paid for or otherwise earned, or is it something he’s getting as a VIP because the museum is voluntarily giving him special treatment? I.e. is he a customer, or is he getting perks because he’s powerful? If the former, maybe it makes sense to argue that anyone should be able to enter a museum no matter what they’ve done, and museums aren’t in the business of turning away visitors. But if it’s more like the latter situation, I think the intern would be perfectly within her rights to refuse to help provide perks to someone she finds abhorrent. There are lots of things going on in the world that don’t fit under the conciliatory umbrella of “differing views.”

    1. Caramel & Cheddar

      Usually the latter, in my experiences with arts & culture institutions. “Big Name Politician is coming! Roll out the red carpet!” is usually how this works, especially if they have staffers or security coming with them.

      1. EBStarr

        Thanks! Yeah, I see the museum professionals pointing out that museums are inherently public, and I agree. I’m sure the world would actually benefit a lot if people like Richard Spencer went to more museums. Maybe they’d learn something! But treating someone like a human being/not turning them away at the door isn’t the same as voluntarily giving them the VIP treatment — if we’re talking some neo-Nazi politician who wants to throw gay kids into conversion camps or throw immigrant kids into jail or whatever it is this particular dude’s doing, then why should the intern help make his life cushier?

        1. Jennifer Thneed

          Thank you, this is exactly the question I had. This guy is getting special treatment that members of the general public do not get. Who else gets special treatment, and why? As an ordinary citizen who likes museums enough to put up with, well, lines and admission, it annoys me to think of some people not having to wait in line or pay admission, so they can avoid mingling with the unwashed public. (Although I can a museum wanting to not inflict Famous Person and Bodyguards on their general public, too.)

          OP says that “demand for tickets is very high” and “I was asked by my higher-ups to give a private tour”. So this public figure is jumping the line and yeah, that puts my knickers in a slight twist.

  33. Rulesfor

    I think it really depends. Is the person coming to the museum literally a Nazi? Because sure, threaten them with violence. And maybe you’ll lose your job, but I think we all stand to lose a lot more at this particular moment in history. Sorry, maybe this falls on the wrong side of the don’t-discuss-politics line, and if so, feel free to delete. But I don’t really know how to address this question without it.

    1. Anony McAnonFace

      Yeah, if the dude is a Nazi then I’d be coming to the museum off-hours to throw some hands. If being “professional” means collaborating with Nazis than I’ll stick with being anything but that.

      1. Rulesfor

        For sure. And really, what’s a bridge too far? Do we serve people putting immigrant children in concentration camps? People actively trying to take away rights from women and queers? I agree that the intern wasn’t being professional. I don’t think professionalism has anything to do with the situation.

    2. fposte

      The problem is that if you shut down the place rather than serve Nazis you’ve shut down the place that served other people. If you’re a restaurant, maybe that doesn’t matter, but if you’re, say, Planned Parenthood or a library, that matters a lot. So for me it depends on the place.

        1. fposte

          I think that you end up there, though; presumably we’re not talking about limiting walking out to those with a level of privilege.

          1. Rulesfor

            I just can’t see that being the only way that plays out. But it’s kind of tough to project a situation like that with so few variables. Anyway, I think I’m arguing on a more personal level–if one personal’s morals dictate that they not participate in a special tour for someone who they feel this way about (we’re not even talking about banning him from the museum), I don’t necessarily agree with the advice that they should take the professional tack.

            1. fposte

              I think for me the question here is the long view. What effect does the intern think this will have on her career and on society? In general at work you rarely have a consequence-free option to refuse tasks–does she think that there will be enough gain from this refusal to make it worth the action? I personally think that if she’s interested in museumship as a career this is a counterproductive move–she doesn’t have enough capital now for this to be a meaningful absence and it hurts her career going forward. (I also think there are ways she could have approached it that might have had a better risk/reward ratio.)

              Overall, I think if you’re working in a field with a mission, it’s worth being very thoughtful about whether your ideology allows you to support that mission. (I also think it’s also worth being conscious of the many points of compromise and problematic practice in all our industries, so that we can make decisions not just on recency and prominence but on overall effect. Big donors, stock portfolio choices, major clients, etc. often have longer-term significance than who’s lecturing there or visiting there.)

              1. Rulesfor

                I don’t know if I can really meaningfully engage with this without knowing who the person in question is and what the intern’s objections are, because as I said in my first comment, I think it really matters. There are times when it’s worth it to make those compromises to support the mission and times where it’s not. As a social worker, I think about this a lot, and I think my views on it have shifted pretty significantly in the past couple of years.

              2. Delphine

                It may certainly have consequences for her career–and that is something for LW to talk about in this situation, to make sure her intern has thought things through and understands how similar actions might affect her in the future. But an action doesn’t have to have society-changing consequences for it to be worth something. If Steve Bannon walked into my office refusing to serve him probably wouldn’t change anything, but I wouldn’t have to be in the presence of or be polite to a person who works every day to make people like me less safe.

                1. fposte

                  I think for me the question is the worth of that, though, and how you make it worth as much as possible. The Guggenheim maximized the worth of its refusal by making it very public. In most jobs, there’s no way to privately refuse custom to somebody without your employer being aware, so you’d have to be willing to face the consequences from your job if it’s on your initiative. Maybe they’d support you, or maybe you could go down in a useful blaze of glory if they don’t. But I think overall there are a lot of situations where you can ultimately do more good for progressivism by ringing up Steve Bannon’s toothpaste, keeping your job and feeding your kids, and having more agency for activism than if you lost your job by refusing.

                  Historically, the most effective ways to resist and the most individually satisfying ways don’t always coincide. That takes some complicated parsing, and, as Rulesfor suggests, it’s really dependent on the situation. But you have to have some power to be Oskar Schindler or even Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Alternatively, if you’re going to operate as a resistance, there are more effective actions to take than a mere refusal. Getting back to the intern specifically, I think that she missed some opportunities for those.

    3. MuseumChick

      It’s still not acceptable to refuse service from a museum professional prospective (on a personal level, I have a deep desire to punch all Nazi’s in the face and ban them to a small island in the middle of the ocean with limited supplies).

      Museum are political institutions but they fall into the same kind of visitor-service-open-to-all-the-public-no-matter-what category that libraries do.

      1. Anony McAnonFace

        They’re not refusing service. They’re laying out the red carpet. By all means let this person buy a ticket (or go for free depends on the place) like the rest of us plebes.

        1. MuseumChick

          Then you would have to accept other museums, lets say the National Air and Space museum, refusing a private tour for an anti-war politician. Again, from a museum professional perspective, you cannot have it just one way.

          1. Anony McAnonFace

            That’s fine. I mean, I don’t like it, but if they don’t want to roll out the red carpet, that’s their affair. They should not block access, and they should treat said politician like any other patron. I don’t love the whole VIP for politicians thing anyway.

            1. MuseumChick

              The thing is, just because you are fine with that doesn’t mean the public at large would not throw a huge fit over it. Often the same people who say they would fine with this going both ways are the same ones who rage-post on in institutions FB page, next thing you know your museum is in the national news.

      2. Rulesfor

        I guess what I’m suggesting is that what’s professionally acceptable and morally acceptable might be different things in some situations, including this one.

  34. Persimmons

    Setting aside the obviously unacceptable physical threats, I’m torn on this. On the one hand, if intern is a member of a vulnerable population that said politician is threatening, sitting out seems justifiable. On the other hand, religious pharmacists need to do their d*mned jobs, and intern should too.

    1. EddieSherbert

      Well said. It’s a bit of a minefield :/ but I think Alison gave a really good and thoughtful response; I hope OP has a chance to use the script (and send us an update!).

  35. Asleep or maybe dead

    +1.
    I’m a bit apprehensive with the amount of comments going “she’s so immature, just do your job”.
    Ofc she could have been more professional in her delivery, but none of us know how big is her conflict here.
    Telling people to just suck it up is careless at best.

    1. pleaset

      THIS.

      Also, as an American I frankly feel we’re at an extremely dangerous point in our nation – and there is a chance that our democracy might never recover. While I think our political situation probably not as precarious is analogous to Germany in the late 1930s, it is possible I’m wrong. And if this intern was refusing to, say, be in the presence of VIP Hitler at that time (pre-Holocaust of course), the “joke” would really be on those of us who are saying “she’s so immature – she should suck it up or quit.”

    2. Detective Amy Santiago

      Same.

      If she is a POC, LGBT, or from an immigrant family, you should be sensitive to that. If the museum wants to court a big name controversial politician, they can ask staff who is not in the line of fire from their policies to undertake those responsibilities.

    3. Muriel Heslop

      I agree – “suck it up” is a terrible motivator. As an intern, it seems like this is the opportunity that internships are designed for – is this the career I want, are these professional standards I can uphold, and do I want to be in a field in which I have the challenges of serving the public? I hope the OP has a candid and respectful discussion with her and the intern can decide what she wants to do from there. They may decide it’s worth ending the internship or even this career path. She may change her mind.

      1. Gloucesterina

        Yes, this could be a really productive mentoring conversation to help the intern articulate her core interests and values, and how she can select a career path that works in line with those interests or values.

        1. Muriel Heslop

          About half of the student teachers I have had chose not to enter teaching after completing their student teaching. The actual work of serving the public can be brutal.

    4. nonprofit fun

      +1 I am really uncomfortable with the “just suck it up” comments. In a similar situation I probably wouldn’t make comments of violence, but would probably bring up my discomfort to my supervisor. There’s a very famous politician (y’all can guess who) who publicly proclaimed to a cheering crowd that he wanted to ban people of my religion from the country, and there are plenty of other politicians who have spent their careers dehumanizing and targeting people of my faith. I’d be loathe to give my time to any of them.

      Maybe it’s a privilege to protest at work, but it’s also a privilege to see political differences as just simple disagreements that you need to get over.

      1. pleaset

        “it’s also a privilege to see political differences as just simple disagreements that you need to get over.”

        Well said.

      2. Asleep or maybe dead

        ” it’s also a privilege to see political differences as just simple disagreements that you need to get over.”
        This is what I was trying to articulate, but couldn’t phrase well enough to post.

        If your reaction to a generic situation like this is “it can’t be so serious that it should impact their work”, then YOU ARE SO INCREDIBLY LUCKY, you literally have no idea.

        1. Leslie knope

          I forgot to add this to my own post but yes. “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, there’s a difference between someone with racist views and a nazi” is a distinction only people who aren’t affected can make.

    5. Leslie knope

      Yeah, AAM is good for a lot of things but the amount of moderate liberals who start handwringing and treatingboth sides like they’re the same is always disappointing. You cannot reason with extremists, and yet the tone police will always pull that one out.

  36. Sunshine

    Well, if your intern would like a career in public institutions such as museums, libraries, monuments, archives, etc., then she should learn to play nice with the people who potentially control the purse strings or influence those who do (i.e. politicians)– it’s important to the survival of the museum. The control of my own state goes back and forth between political parties, but we always try to ensure that legislators of both parties know how valuable our institution is and how we well serve the public.

    The fact that this politician wants to visit the museum is a great opportunity to show what you do. I would talk to your intern about advocacy and how it works.

  37. Miss Fisher - Lady Detective

    Would I want to process loan paperwork for say Trump Tower or Mar a Lago, no, but would I go ahead and do it, yes. I might be grumbling the whole time to myself, but its part of the job and I like getting a paycheck.

  38. Jennifer Juniper

    This young woman is being immature and juvenile in the extreme. She is lucky is not being fired by the letter writer for her antics. Her insubordination can and will come back to haunt her.

    1. Political consultant

      Haunt her? Per my moniker, I’m a political consultant. If this really is a young intern saying “no” to Steve Bannon, I’d hire her.

  39. Who the eff is Hank?

    I agree with Alison’s advice to talk to the intern about the proper way to raise her concerns and let her decide how to proceed. She may decide that not having to accommodate this politician is worth walking away from her internship and that’s a decision I think she should get to make.

    FWIW– if I were the intern and was told I can give this politician a tour or end my internship, I’d probably end the internship. My own personal convictions mean more to me than keeping any particular job. Though I think I deviate from the personal philosophies of many AAM readers in that I don’t care for building a career for myself. I’m happy to work any old job so long as the paycheck is sufficient (and I live that low paid nonprofit life so that’s not hard for me to find).

  40. Ms. Pear

    This just makes me really sad. Sad to see what our country has become.

    At my first job, way back in the early 1990s, I couldn’t even tell you what religious/political stripes my coworkers were. We came in, did our jobs, even socialized — but we didn’t talk politics, and we didn’t talk religion. It was just considered good manners. After I’d been there for over a year, my best work buddy and I found out over lunch one day that we totally disagreed about abortion. (The topic came up in a roundabout way, not because we were discussing hot topics.) Y’know what? I asked why she thought what she thought. She told me, calmly and reasonably. She asked why I thought I what I think. I told her, calmly and reasonably. We each asked a few questions, saw that our time at lunch was up, and headed back to work. We worked side by side until the company closed a year or so later, and remained best work buddies.

    It just makes me sad that our country has gotten to the point where we can’t even tolerate the mere presence of a person from the other side of the political aisle. It makes me sad that we can’t recognize the humanity of the other person, or that we can’t say, “Well, I don’t agree with this guy’s politics or viewpoints, but out of respect for the office he holds, I’ll be polite and civil.”

    Folks, there is a better way. Maybe you have legitimate reasons for not liking a person — but you can be a force for positive change simply by treating others civilly and demonstrating the respect you’d like to see extended to yourself.

      1. Who the eff is Hank?

        Thank you Rulesfor. This isn’t a case of “I don’t want to serve someone who believes in stronger state’s rights.” It’s a case of “I don’t want to serve someone who thinks I need conversion therapy and that my cousin should be deported and that I shouldn’t have access to medical care that I need to live.”

      2. Not A Morning Person

        I think I understand, but who is they? I think this is beginning to devolve into all our personal feelings about our experiences with varying discrimination and not about the OP and the intern. Maybe the VIP is someone most people would agree is so offensive, we’d quit. We don’t have any information on whether the VIP is a politician, a federal employee, a Nazi, an appointed member of the administration, a governor, or other elected official, a radio host spouting views offensive to the intern, a news media professional, the CEO of Planned Parenthood, the CEO of Fox, the CEO of the NRA, or any of a number of public figures that could hold views offensive to the intern. We have no idea.

      3. Jaguar

        What do you mean by that? I’m not trying to stir up a political discussion, but there have been a lot of comments in this thread that “politicians want people dead” that haven’t been elaborated on and I have no idea what it’s referring to.

        1. Rulesfor

          I really, really don’t know how to answer this without leaving an overtly political comment. I guess this will do: A large number of policies in recent years have been directly targeting the health and well-being of marginalized groups.

        2. Anony McAnonFace

          Denying access to healthcare for poor people, POC, and those seeking health care for their reproduction (the USA has the highest maternal death rate in the 1st world). Forcing LGBTQ people in conversion therapy (often leads to suicide). Police gunning down POC in the streets. Deporting people to countries where they will be murdered, Nazi and the “alt-right” literally killing people with guns, and mowing them down with cars, and beating people to death… and all these people then being praised and supported by politicians….

        3. Detective Amy Santiago

          One example is that by overturning the ACA, millions of vulnerable people would lose their insurance. Disabled people would lose valuable services. Anyone who has ever had any sort of medical problem could be denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition. People will die because they cannot afford to access the services they need.

    1. Bones

      I don’t owe a thing to someone who wants me dead, least of all civility. Stop putting your personal comfort over other people’s dignity.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago

      Would you tolerate the presence of someone who broke into your house and was holding a gun on your family?

    3. gecko

      Be polite all you want; I’m certainly polite with coworkers who are across the political aisle. But not understanding the paradox of tolerance–to preserve a tolerant society, we must be intolerant toward intolerance–speaks more to your naivete than your kindness. Civility to powerful men who lock children in cages is no civility at all.

      1. Ms. Pear

        I’m not naïve. I’m educated and well-versed in political events. I’m a registered independent, if that makes a difference, who knows that the cages often referenced were in place and used during the Obama administration, as well as the current administration. This is my point: both sides of the political spectrum have things to recommend them and things to work toward fixing and improving. When we refuse to work with (or worse, begin attacking) one side or the other, we shut out HALF of the American population. And it’s bad when this is playing out in national politics and the newspapers, but now advocacy for obstruction and violence is trickling down into a museum workplace. How is this good??

        1. Autumnheart

          You’re making a false equivalence. There’s nothing on the conservative side of the spectrum to recommend it. They are provoking trade wars, implementing tariffs that will have a devastating economic effect on entire industries in the US, deporting people on the basis of their religious beliefs, imprisoning children, destroying the environment, stripping health care away from millions of people, and siphoning trillions of dollars of American wealth directly from the poor and middle class to the wealthy.

          Those people should absolutely be shut out. They are dangerous and destructive.

    4. ragazza

      Would you still want to hang out with her if she had the power to deny you an abortion or control your medical care? Because that’s more of the situation here. These are people in power making policies that have actual and negative consequences on people’s lives.

      1. Ms. Pear

        The only way to change another person’s mind and opinions is through civil conversation. So yes. I would talk with a person on the opposite side of the political aisle from me, and maybe even enjoy some dinner together.

        1. Sue Wilson

          We’re talking about policy not individual personal opinion, and that has throughout history required violence.

        2. Clarice Fitzapatrick

          Just about every social movement in the USA that wanted equity for marginalized groups gained traction with “uncivil” acts. (Sit-ins, protests, “impolite” rhetoric, etc.) I’m not saying there isn’t any room for respectful, calm conversation too but that’s not the only way to change people’s minds or enact social change.

        3. Oxford Comma

          As other have pointed out here, this has been tried with fascists before. On an international scale. It resulted in a second world war and did nothing to stop the attempted genocide of millions of people.

          I have Jewish ancestry. There are people in the States in the year 2018 who think everyone with that ancestry belong in ovens. And the current president calls those Nazis “fine people.”

          This isn’t like how Jane in Accounting and I need to get along even though we disagree about how much of our tax dollars should go to public education.

          I don’t have to be civil to Nazis.

          1. fposte

            Hey, maybe we can have a causes-of-WWII side argument. I’m in the camp that believes the punitive nature of the Treaty of Versailles was a major cause of the rise of Nazism, and that that’s a good example of why savage longterm punishment and hierarchical oppression ends up with backlash consequences. See also: Hutu and Tutsi.

            1. Oxford Comma

              That’s a very fair point. I guess I was thinking more about Appeasement and Neville Chamberlain.

              Still don’t plan on being civil to Nazis any time ever.

              1. fposte

                Yeah, Nancy Astor and the musical chairs is a great example there too, with very high ludicrousness value.

                This thread is convincing me to start compiling a reading list on what’s historically tended to make a resistance successful, like post-Ackerman and Krugler studies.

    5. the_scientist

      When certain groups view other groups as less than human, the time for civility has LONG passed.

      Also, I think you’re viewing the past through rose-coloured glasses. Abortion providers have been murdered by “pro-life” activists.

      1. President Porpoise

        I… think this is happening on both sides, though, and that’s the problem. I personally equate the term Nazi with sub-human rabid dog that should be put down. But, I reserve the term for people who specifically and undeniably show that they are Nazis – David Duke for example. I really don’t agree with either extreme of the political spectrum. I think that the current administration is damaging in a lot of ways, to all people (not just minorities or disadvantaged communities), and we’ll all start feeling it soon if we aren’t already. But I would really hesitate to call all Republicans, even all republicans in power, Nazis. I sincerely doubt most of them actually want minorities and disadvantaged groups to actually die. (Some, sure, I’ll buy that.)

        There’s a spectrum. We’ve got Steve Bannon and Steven Miller on the really despicable side, and then more moderate republicans (for example, Jeff Flake, Mitt Romney, and John McCain) in leadership as well. For many people, the more moderate options are still completely objectionable – but I don’t think anyone could reasonably accuse them of being Nazis.

        I don’t like painting all conservatives as Nazis or racists. It’s not true, and it will prevent us from reaching a position, as a country, where we can learn about each other and move forward with greater understanding and compassion. I think we all need to learn more compassion.

        1. the_scientist

          In general, I agree with you. But I think we’re at a situation where the status quo no longer works; the pendulum has swung too far to one side. There are the very literal fascists and white supremacists obviously, but they are emboldened by those “moderates” who aren’t taking a meaningful stand to oppose them. “Thoughts and prayers” and concerned statements put out over twitter aren’t meaningful action against policies that are explicitly grounded in white supremacist ideology. So no, those moderates may not be self-proclaimed white supremacists but until they take deliberate, meaningful action opposing white supremacist rhetoric they still fall on the side of the oppressor, in my opinion.

    6. Jennifer

      Sadly, we’re beyond being able to be civil to the other side when they are actively trying to destroy/kill/expel people.

    7. The Original K.

      What I absolutely will not do, ever, is put the comfort of my oppressor over my own. At no point in history have the oppressed won rights by being “civil” to those who oppressed them.

      My oppressors quite literally strip me of my humanity in order to rationalize denying me my rights, and I’m supposed to recognize THEIR humanity and try to work it out? I will not.

    8. WolfPack Influencer

      I suppose I’ll be very properly quiet and respectful when I’m dead the way they want me.
      Civility is for civil discourse. When one party wants the other party DECEASED, then Roberts Rules of Order can suck it.

    9. pleaset

      “Well, I don’t agree with this guy’s politics or viewpoints, but out of respect for the office he holds, I’ll be polite and civil.”

      They (the far right) is denying the humanity of significant swathes of the public. They are cheering for racism and sexism and other forms of bigotry in ways that kill people.

      I can’t respect people who are doing inhumane things. This is not like my disliking the politics of a GHWBush. This is about trying to send people to their deaths, and cheering.

    10. EddieSherbert

      I don’t think the intern should have to do the tour/interact with the VIP at all (since that part was a “bonus” part of the job and not her normal duty, I think she can politely decline that portion of it). Attending would be upsetting to the intern, and it’s not like she would be allowed to have a “polite political conversation” with the VIP even if she thought she could do that (versus “punching them in the face the second she sees them).

      But thank you for sharing, and I did enjoy your story about your work friend!

    11. General Ginger

      How should I recognize the humanity of a person who thinks I’m an abomination who is coming to their kids’ bathrooms to molest them?

    12. The Other Geyn

      I’m sorry that I can’t be civil to a group of people who wants me dead on the basis of my race.

    13. Aisling

      I agree with you. Even reading the responses to your comment shows how very, very far from a civil society we have devolved in to. No one side has a complete monopoly on how information should be interpreted – not liberals, not conservatives, not anyone. Not talking about our differences and only insisting that one side should be heard is how civil wars begin and that terrifies me.

      1. Leslie knope

        What good is it to anyone to give racists, sexists, and homophobes a voice? I’m very confused. Why should their harmful views be allowed a platform?

  41. MuseumChick

    I made along comment but I think it got eaten.

    As a museum professional, what the intern is doing is unacceptable. Museum are public institutions, we cannot pick our visitors. OP, you need to stress that to the intern and make it clear that if she wants to be in this highly competitive field, she needs to learn to work with people she disagrees with.

    That doesn’t mean museum don’t take stands. Museums are inherently political, you should share some of those old classic examples with her: The Enola Gay, The Sensations Exhibit, and most recently the Guggenheim and the art they offered to Trump. But the Geggenheim would still give Trump a tour if he showed up.

    1. Lora

      So what is the boundary of “things we don’t do when asked”?

      Was reading about a high-end travel arrangement company the other day, and even for billionaires, they don’t arrange for call girls or ship cocaine when a client asks them to.

      When you roll out the red carpet for someone, how do you decide if they deserve it? Just because they ask? How much money do they have to donate? Whether they’re a politician? How big a politician – presumably you don’t do it for the mayor of Cincinnati? I’m actually curious, because I’ve had a few private group tours of museums as part of company holiday parties, but they were limited to a few galleries and the company paid decent money for it. Is Senator Goering shelling out the $2M rental fee and howevermuch for catering? Does the museum have any reason to give him all this if he isn’t paying for it?

      1. MuseumChick

        This will vary slightly from museum to museum. Factors can include the mission of the museum, staff time, schedule of other events, etc. But generally you do not want to be the museum who turned someone away because your staff disagree with their politics. You will land in a lot of hot water both from the public, and likely from other professionals in the field.

        1. Political consultant

          “This will vary slightly from museum to museum.”

          …which therefore means there’s not “Museum Professional-Certified Viewpoint.” So please stop trotting out the line that you’re “speaking as a museum professional,” as if that ends the debate.

          1. MuseumChick

            Isn’t it weird that institutions within a profession operate slightly differently????

          2. MuseumChick

            Also, as I keep saying museums are a weird field. The closest thing we have to governing authority is the American Alliance of Museums and even then they really just set guideline of best practices. There is no authority that say “Yes this is a museum” or “No, this is not a museum” that is why the Creationist Museum can call themselves a museum. No one in the field takes them seriously but they can still call themselves a museum. They will operate differently then say, the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

          3. Recovering Curator

            Speaking as a former museum professional, I fail to see how you interpreted any of MuseumChick’s comments as attempts to end any debate. As the vast majority of commenters here have not indicated they have experience navigating the very particular political minefield that is the museum profession, I have found the context she has provided quite valuable.

        2. Lora

          Would you be able to…like, sometimes my employer gets a request from a sketchy company to do a thing, and we don’t want to say “no” because we like money, so okay, I get that, but we DO say, “we can certainly help with your request! That will be $9876987360875y36896767 for an initial consultation and $2574034356543648403504104i for the XYZ package, which is the usual support level, but if you need additional blahblah then we will need to extend the consultation period to 500 centuries, payable by the hour, and in our tech transfer we require 9876356892378 gigabytes of data, formatted in both user-readable and COBOL code…”

          We know they aren’t going to cough up the money, we know they don’t have the data organized. If they get it together, yay, but mostly they don’t. Can you tell Senator Goering that he needs to pay you a suitcase full of Krugerrands or something?

          1. MuseumChick

            Sure, but we would have to do that for everyone. So, of politician X calls us and we know that our mission is totally opposite of her political stances we could do that. But then we would also have to do that of politician Y called with the same request and we knew she had stances that matched our mission.

            1. Lora

              See, that’s where I disagree: if Very Reputable Company wants to do business with my company, they are not asking for special treatment and they have all their ducks in a row, fine, I will be delighted to work with them. Most of the time, the standard terms are they pay for some of the equipment and I pay for some, in anticipation that other people will want to lease the equipment from me and I can structure VRC’s payments as a sort of long term lease of my space + equipment for which they will front some milestone payments.

              So let’s say Pablo Escobar asks me to build him a cocaine refinery, which is illegal in many countries. I can tell him, based on my risk analysis, you need to put cash up front, and while I am sure that many cartels other than Medellin would also like to refine cocaine in the downtime when I’ve made enough batches for your annual supply, I think you are asking me to take on a lot of risk and therefore you pay for the whole thing, up front, in Bitcoins or whatever.

              Because that’s what Risk Analysis amounts to, is A-hole Tax. If doing business with someone is potentially a money source but creates reputational risk to your organization, you charge them some amount to make up for the risk you are taking on their behalf.

              When you’re doing acquisitions, you don’t buy just anything from any sketchy dude, right? Much of what you’re paying for is a guarantee of “this wasn’t stolen by Indiana Jones / Lara Croft and comes from a totally trustworthy source”. You’re not going to pay the big bucks for something without certificates of provenance, because it’s a risk – and I would argue that catering to sketchy customers is also a risk.

        3. Nephron

          I would argue you also do not want to be the museum that fired someone from a marginalized group because they refused to serve someone that advocated their loss of rights, safety, or life.

          If a state visit from Kim Jong-Un occurred and he was taken to the Smithsonian for a tour, I would be deeply disturbed if anyone was forced to take part, I would be enraged if a refugee or descendant of a refugee from North Korea was forced to participate.

          1. Observer

            If they fire her, it won’t be because she refused to give the guy a tour, though. It will be because she threatened violence and refused to do her job overall.

            1. Lora

              Yeah, that’s really what OP needs to talk to her about: how to say, “I understand what you are asking for, and I cannot do that because of reasons, and if that means I’m spending the rest of the summer making burritos at Chipotle instead of at an internship, I understand that too.” And maybe OP could think about where they’ll get interns next year when she goes back to her school and says, “I had to quit because they wanted me to roll out the red carpet for Goebbels, sorry,” but that’s a risk you take.

              Realistically she hasn’t got much influence but it doesn’t have to hurt her and the university can adjust (warn?) the future applicant pool accordingly.

              1. fposte

                Yes, I think this is a really good point–it’s a way of making sure the intern understands, preferably in a cooler moment, the implications of making a stand here, and you make a legitimate point about how it could come across to the internship program, too.

  42. Rosemary7391

    On a little reflection I’m wondering how I would handle this situation more professionally should it occur and I wished to take action.

    Would it be appropriate to ask to be allowed to give them a letter at the end of the visit, making it very clear it was from me as a private citizen and in no way endorsed by the institution? And behaving impeccably during the visit of course.

    1. Kathleen_A

      *I* don’t think so. So long as you’re there, you ARE representing the institution. That’s just the way it is.

        1. Rosemary7391

          Probably true. Although I was thinking it’s slightly more likely they’ll open it if handed directly to them by the person who has been showing them around, as opposed to mailing it. I know, I’m optimistic…

    2. STG

      If you don’t have to attend the tour and on your own hours, I’d be sorely tempted to gather up some protesters and meet him outside the front door though.

  43. STG

    Since I’m under the LGBT umbrella, I wouldn’t want to participate either. I simply can’t ignore or treat these lawmakers with any amount of respect. They’ve lost the luxury of civility.

    I’d likely bite my lip, register my dislike with it and do the prep work as necessary but I’d struggle with even something that small. Frankly, 18 year old intern me would have likely looked for a different internship and moved on.

  44. aunttora

    I ALWAYS have a dental appointment when we have our half-yearly “all staff” meetings with the Big Boss (who is an enormous and outspoken supporter of Our National Embarrassment). In fact this very morning I called to change my appointment because the meeting date was changed. It’s so weirdly coincidental!

  45. Anne

    I don’t agree at all. There are actual literal Nazis in the White House. I’m the child of a Holocaust survivors. Nothing under any circumstances would convince me to do business with Nazis and people creating child concentration camps. The idea that professionalism and being unbiased means treating everyone the same is so toxic and dangerous. Sometimes doing the moral
    thing has to come above what will personally benefit you.

    It’s really about choice. If someone chooses to potentially sacrifice their career to stand up for what they believe in, that’s their choice to make. You can make them aware of what they are risking. You can make it clear you won’t support them. But you can’t force them to be Nazi collaborators.

    1. Augusta Sugarbean

      Anne, I get that you feel strongly about this topic but please leave the politics for another website. It’s against commenting rules to bring politics into the comments. I think everyone, no matter their political viewpoints, can use a break from the chaos.

      1. Bea

        Unless you’re Allison, stop policing others. Nobody asked you to unless we suddenly got mods without being told.

        1. President Porpoise

          Actually, Alison is totally ok with commenters reminding others about published site rules – it’s a ton of work for her otherwise.

          1. Like what even

            She literally said the other week that she was about to replace every rule with “stop chastising each other.”

      2. tired anon

        There have been many, many references to Nazis, and assumptions about the politics of the person the intern wants to protest, throughout the comments here – I am curious why you’d choose this one to reply to asking the person to be quiet?

        1. Augusta Sugarbean

          Eh, she seemed to be the most vocal. If you feel like I’m picking on her, you want I should check all the comments? :-)

          1. Augusta Sugarbean

            (Hit enter too soon.) Most it is because it is clearly a reference to the sitting president and administration. We aren’t supposed to talk politics here but apparently things like “There are actual literal Nazis in the White House.” are fine? I mean I know Alison and I aren’t politically aligned but that’s what I really like about this site – it’s non-political and work problems are common ground that we (Alison, me, most commenters) share. It’s refreshing and really, really important. If we can’t find common ground, we are never going to move forward.

            1. tired anon

              I honestly don’t think this topic can be entirely divorced from politics, because the intern is making a political protest. That’s something that’s happening at people’s workplaces. That’s something managers have to figure out how to deal with.

    2. Observer

      If inter wants to quite, that’s fine. But that’s not what the question is about.

  46. RVA Cat

    Is there a plan in place for how to respond if the politician mistreats staff? The private tour is a privilege and respect goes both ways.

  47. Gloucesterina

    Oof, this is tough. Professionalism (as other discussions on this site have explored) doesn’t just mean tapping into a given workplace culture or responding to tense situations in a thoughtful manner. It also means practicing or interpreting via practice the code of ethics of a given field. Sometimes practicing that code of ethics might mean getting mad and refusing to follow directions from a superior (e.g. an engineer being asked to cut corners building a bridge.) But at other times or situations, it may mean confronting something that’s less clearcut. I’m unfamiliar with how this particular situation speaks to ethics in field of museum work, but this may be a way to open a discussion.

    On another note, if someone is looking to sustain a lifetime of political activism, being out of work is going to make things really tough for them or anyone they’re supporting financially. This can be a moment to help a person new to the field reflect on their broader trajectory, professionally and personally.

    1. Gloucesterina

      Actually I should have read MuseumChick’s comments above!

      It might be that working in different types of arts/cultural organizations where politics are front and center might ultimately be a better environment for this person, as opposed to museums.

      1. MuseumChick

        Museums are a weird field in a lot of ways. A good part of what is obvious advice/the way things work in other fields just don’t apply to us. And, yes, that includes, if a Nazi comes into your institution you have to treat them like any other visitor (again barring an enumerable number of circumstances).

        Again, that doesn’t mean museums don’t take stances. They absolutely do! Look up the Guggenheim and Trump for a great example of this.

        1. Political consultant

          “A good part of what is obvious advice/the way things work in other fields just don’t apply to us. And, yes, that includes, if a Nazi comes into your institution you have to treat them like any other visitor ”

          If that is in fact true (and I doubt it, frankly), then you’re part of the problem, not the solution — and museums aren’t the cherished institutions you’re making them out to be.

          1. MuseumChick

            No need to be rude just because you disagree with me. If you want to go and ask other museum professionals you are certainly welcome to. Some resources include: The American Alliance of Museum, The Emerging Museum Professionals Network, The International Council of Museums, not to mention each region has their own professional net work like the Southeast Museum Conference and the Midwest Museum Association.

        2. RVA Cat

          The literal WW2 Nazis went to museums and burned the art they disagreed with, and looted everything else. Just something to consider.

          1. MuseumChick

            Yes, that is something we study extensively in museum studies programs. It doesn’t change the situation in this letter.

    2. fposte

      That last is a really good point. I totally understand the desire to refuse work contact with people with dangerous or hateful views, and I know “pick your battles” can be used as somewhat of a dismissive phrase. But sometimes I think the ideology loses sight of the practicality here–if the goal is change, an intern avoiding a tour or losing her job isn’t going to make that goal likelier. (This is my problem with the punching Nazis thing–it doesn’t diminish Nazism in any way.) Whereas rising in the ranks and developing your own special exhibits can be an effective way of working toward change.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        “Change the situation” never comes out of one single act.

        “What you do is unacceptable” is a perfectly fine message to send.

        1. fposte

          I think it’s fine; I just don’t know that it’s valuable in changing things. My goal is to change things.

          Historically that almost always means putting up with some shit you don’t want to. While mindful of E. E. Cummings’ “There is some shit I will not eat,” I think we all have to consider what shit, if you will, is worth what goal, and understand that there is no completely compromise-free, complicity-free path to real success. I’m not saying the intern made a wrong choice here–I don’t know her or the situation–but I’m saying that it could be one if it loses her the chance to grow in a career, have access to people with power and resources, and be able to draw on those to inform people in the future in exchange for not being at an event where her absence won’t be noticed.

          To put it another way: in a war, you don’t want troops choosing tactics that give them personal satisfaction; you want tactics that are proven to advance the strategy.

      2. EddieSherbert

        I still think it’s the intern’s choice (and I wouldn’t fault her if she felt she had to leave rather than do the paperwork or whatever), but this is a great point and I hope it also occurs to her.

  48. art.the.nerd

    I am pretty sure I am of the opposite political persuasion as the young intern, but I support her position. Politics is the most important thing in life (except maybe music). Later in life, the intern may run for office. Assisting in a museum tour for Literally Hitler (or, if you prefer, Literally Stalin) will ruin her chance to become President.

    I just don’t see how Intern can continue to work in a place that will not spit in the face of Literally Hitler/Stalin. The only honorable thing is for Intern to resign, alert the media, and picket the museum.

    1. The Commoner

      “Politics is the most important thing in life…”

      I wholeheartedly disagree. Politics can bring light to the disadvantaged and necessary progressive conversations, but has also contributed towards polarization, shaming, and flat out bad acts……by any “side” or player.

      The most important thing in life is compassion. Embracing compassion pushes us to be more inclusive of all, to stop any have conversations, treat others with respect and kindness, even when we have different views.

        1. Kathleen_A

          LOL! I have – or thought I had – a very sensitive scarcasm-o-meter, and I missed it too, Art.the.nerd.

    2. Jennifer Thneed

      I would be very amused by:
      1. a museum that can spit. A museum being a building and all…
      2. Anyone spitting in the face of Literally Hitler, on account of how dead he is. Stalin, too. Also Generalissimo Francisco Franco — still totally dead.

      /not sarcasm, just humor

  49. Doe-Eyed

    Is this a paid or unpaid internship? I think in my mind it would be insult to injury to expect to facilitate a view for someone that may want to deny my rights and also not get paid for it.

    1. J.

      This jumped out at me, too. If not, you’re literally asking this person to pay (tuition likely, or at minimum the opportunity cost of taking an internship over a paid position) for… what? The privilege of being forced to provide a service under the guise of “learning” for someone she finds morally objectionable?

  50. pleaset

    OP – who is the visitor?

    Is it Alan Dershowitz? Is the museum the Martha’s Vineyard Historical Society? Are you part of the “cabal” that is
    “shunning him”?

    C’mon, dish!

  51. Geillis D

    I wish the pharmacist who refused to provide Evil Pills to a woman who was prescribed them by her doctor would write AAM with this exact question. Somehow, it looks like they are not the kind of people who would deign to ask for advice in such matters.

      1. Oxford Comma

        Pretty sure the one Geillis D was referring to still has his job. (Although I would love to be wrong about that).

        1. Observer

          All of the cases I recall ended with the pharmacist in question fired – in fact a number of them have wound up in court. Pharmacist has never won yet.

          1. OxfordComma

            I don’t believe the pharmacist in question is going to be sued, though. I am guessing Geillis D is referring to the incident in Arizona.

            1. Observer

              I just found the information. Walgreens claims that the pharmacist should have referred her to another staff person who could have filled her prescription. And that they are “looking into the incident.” They also said that they are going to provide additional training on how to “appropriately handle” such situations.

              This just disgusts me. They COULD fire him, and I think they should.

  52. Free Meerkats

    One method to maybe get her to see the error in her ways would be to ask her a very pointed question, “Do you consider what Kim Davis did proper?” Since I’m assuming she’d answer with an emphatic no, tell her she’s doing exactly the same thing, refusing to do her job because of political beliefs.

    Then give her the option of doing her damn job or not having one. Opt out of the actual tour, sure (since it looks like she’s not needed there), but the prep work still needs to be done. And it’s her job. If she still has a job after the tour, have the deeper discussion.

    1. Anony McAnonFace

      Kim Davis refused someone their rights that they are granted under the law. This is not the same thing as not wanting to give someone who may be actively trying to harm others a VIP tour.

    2. Delphine

      It may not be the same thing, we don’t know what views this political figure holds that made the intern uncomfortable. “I won’t issue marriage licenses to gay people” is not the same as “I won’t give museum tours to white supremacists”.

    3. Birch

      It does actually depend on the details of the situation though. Kim Davis was refusing to uphold the rights of other people. Getting a VIP museum tour is not a legal right, and the intern may be in or related to a group that is marginalized by the VIP, so she’s not in the same position at all.

    4. KHB

      Not the same thing at all. Same-sex couples – a marginalized class of private individuals – are very different from powerful political figures who are actively harming people.

    5. Countess Boochie Flagrante

      Well, no, because Kim Davis was refusing to give people marriage licenses, not refusing to be party to patting the butt of an oppressive politician.

    6. General Ginger

      Kim Davis refused to uphold the legal rights of a marginalized group. A red-carpet VIP tour for a politician/public figure is not a legal right.

      1. Someone else

        I think it’s still a good counterexample to provide the intern context. Both the refusers in both examples are saying “I find this too objectionable to do my job”. So no, it’s not exactly the same thing, but the motivation of the person doing the refusing is entirely comparable. And that’s the point one would be trying to illustrate. The intern might come back with all you just said, I’m not infringing on anyone’s rights, I’m just taking a stand. And that might be fine, but the point is to make her pause and think about it. Knee-jerk reacting to your boss you’d punch the politician (or whatever she said), if it were hyperbole shows the intern didn’t think through her response, if it were a sincere threat…also shows a lack of judgement. It’s a worthwhile example to point out to the intern because the more folks from both sides think through these sorts of things to stop themselves from “it’s bad when THEY do it but OK when I do it”, the better.

        1. General Ginger

          Kim Davis also tried to ensure nobody else would be doing the job. If VIP doesn’t get their museum tour, it’s not going to do them lasting damage. People who couldn’t get marriage licenses couldn’t just go somewhere else for them, ergo, could not get married: much different stakes here. So no, I don’t think this is a useful example to bring up.

          1. Jennifer Thneed

            > People who couldn’t get marriage licenses couldn’t just go somewhere else for them, ergo, could not get married

            …what? They couldn’t go to the next county over for their marriage licenses? Or even the next state (assuming they lived near a state line)?

    7. Bus Stuff

      Yes! This. Your personal politics have no place in the workplace (unless your job is specifically activism, an advocacy group, or something of the political nature.) Public service positions are not the place for political opinions. It is so important that our history and art be available to EVERYONE.

  53. Jaybeetee

    I’ve worked in museums and other public settings and…no. Just no. I know it’s not universally true, but the places I worked in strove to be mostly apolitical. At most, the Cold War museum I was at for awhile had a “Nuclear war is bad, k?” stance, but again, no party lines. As a manager there, I did have to chew out an employee (several years older than me) for making political jokes while giving a tour. He had no idea who may have been in that group (no one high profile, but people affiliated with or who agreed with the party he was slagging probably wouldn’t have appreciated his comments). I told him that as a tour guide, he needed to be apolitical, regardless of his personal beliefs.

    I hope the LW would have included it if this political disagreement rose to the level of “this politician wants me and people like me to leave the country/die.” I imagine that would be at least a mitigating factor for a lot of people, even if the way the intern handled it still isn’t awesome. Absent that information, this sounds like a disagreement that does not rise to the level of personal danger, and the intern was wrong to take it there. Barring “this politician promotes initiatives that literally endanger me”, the intern should still be expected to do her job. Even if she doesn’t want to go on the tour, she should still certainly do the back-end stuff she would normally do.

    Museums are for the public. All of the public. If we start barring anyone at the door, or acting obstructionist with certain visitors, we’re no better than anyone else who has done the same.

    1. UghThatGuyAgain

      If this intern identifies as female, any high level person in the current administration “promotes initiatives that literally endanger” her.

    2. Lou

      Not giving a VIP tour is not at all equal to barring people at the door or being obstructionist. Nothing was said about not letting the person in, just not giving them special treatment. Which is the opposite of being neutral/public/apolitical.

      1. fposte

        VIP tours in most museums aren’t all that special treatment, though; they’re more like first class on an airplane, in that they’re a regular and common practice that’s available to a smaller number.

  54. DaniCalifornia

    I would not have let the intern sit this one out, especially after she acted so unprofessionally about the situation. I hope that talking with her afterwards makes her realize she could have handled it better, but I would be surprised if it did. She voiced that she would attack him?! I know there are always going to be people that we cannot stand with differing views but she didn’t have the common sense to not say that in front of her boss? Or perhaps she felt comfortable saying that because of other conversations that are held in the workplace? I can’t say for sure. But it would have been better had the boss said “I can see your POV but in a professional workplace we are always going to serve others we don’t agree with or care for. You job duties will be the same.”

    1. Lou

      You would simply become known as ‘that boss who forced me to be nice and cater to a bigot/nazi/etc.’ So even if you disagree I wouldn’t force it.

  55. Janet

    As a teacher, I cannot refuse to teach a student. I had a student brag about the KKK rally he attended the night before. Later, his mother warned me not to hold it against him. I had to be just as cordial, fair, and professional to him (and his mother!) as I was to my other students.

    1. Katie McG

      Right – some professions dont get to pick and choose. Teachers, medical providers, ambulance drivers, first responders….

    2. Delphine

      I think there’s a difference between children/young people and adult political figures who espouse dangerous beliefs and have the power to change people’s lives.

    3. Jubilance

      This flies in the face of the numerous studies that show that many teachers DO hold things against their students, especially when that student is of color. While you may not, or at least you think you’re doing a good job of checking your biases at the door, it’s wrong to assume all teachers are like you. The data shows that’s not true.

      1. Janet

        We’re all human, which means we will have biases and probably act on them, too, but the expectation is to be a professional. (I must add that I am white. I cannot imagine how much harder it would have been to deal with this student if I was a person of color. I just tried to forget that he said it and reminded myself that he was being indoctrinated by his parents. I was a young teacher at the time and the whole thing was shocking and disturbing.)

    4. Gazebo Slayer

      I wonder what her implied threat was if you held it against him? There’s nothing about being a teacher that means you can’t make it clear that the KKK is vile. In fact, a teacher who DOESN’T make this clear is failing to do an important part of their job. If the student were hitting classmates or shouting slurs at them, you’d make it clear that behavior was unacceptable, right?

      Several of my teachers in my teen years were important in helping me develop the sense of morality and the understanding of the world that I have as an adult. They were history, civics, literature, and biology teachers – all subjects it is impossible to teach without touching on politics in some ways. And the good ones, the ones I remember well, the ones who actually made me think and grow, were courageous and political – and sometimes they challenged me, or other students, on our problematic views and assumptions. And while I certainly wasn’t attending Klan rallies, I did have some grossly ignorant views that make me cringe today.

      Confronting the student about his KKK rally would certainly not require refusing to teach him. In fact, it’s an essential part of teaching him.