State Senate approves bill that prohibits public colleges and universities from disinviting speakers – 2018

Kentucky: Senate Bill 237 (2018)

Frankfort, KY

Lawmakers in Kentucky are considering a bill aimed at promoting Free Speech on the campuses of public colleges and universities. The bill was approved by the state’s Senate and is now under consideration by the Committee on Education in Kentucky’s House of Representatives.

Key Players

Senator Will Schroder, a Republican, is the lead sponsor of SB 237. He told WKMS that this legislation is partially inspired by a conversation he had with a student at Northern Kentucky University. The student reportedly told Schroder that pro-life speech was being suppressed on campus, citing an incident in which crosses and a sign associated with a pro-life demonstration were destroyed. While answering his colleagues’ questions about SB 237, Schroder acknowledged that name-calling and hate speech would be protected under the bill, reported WKMS.

Further Details

This bill would prohibit the use of Free Speech zones on campus and declare all “generally accessible, open, outdoor areas of the campus” to be traditional public forums. Moreover, the bill would bar public colleges and universities from disinviting speakers on the grounds that their “anticipated speech may be considered offensive, unwise, immoral, indecent, disagreeable, conservative, liberal, traditional, or radical….”

Critics of SB 237 have argued that the bill would weaken a school administration’s ability to police campus activity. Senator Ray Jones, a Democrat, opposed the bill. “You know free speech is important, but there is a public safety concern,” he told WKMS.

Senator Reggie Thomas, also a Democrat, raised concerns about the bill’s prohibition on disinviting divisive speakers. “If you read that language literally, that invites hate speech to come on campuses and be spewed and spoken,” he said, according to WMKY. Specifically, Thomas cited a 2014 incident involving former U.S. Senate candidate Robert Ransdell, a neo-Nazi, at the University of Kentucky. Ransdell was “removed from the stage after uttering racially-inflammatory remarks,” reported WMKY. Thomas raised the concern that such action by university administrations would not be permitted if SB 237 became law. Schroder responded to this concern by noting that administrators have “protections . . . if they anticipate something extreme that is going to place the listening audience in danger,” reported WMKY.

A spokesman from the University of Kentucky said that this bill would not impact its existing practices related to Free Speech, according to WMKY.

Outcome

After approval by the Senate, bill awaits consideration by House of Representatives

On March 13, 2018, SB 237 was approved in the Senate by a vote of 27-11. Nine Democrats and two Republicans voted against the bill, while 25 Republicans and two Democrats approved it. The bill will now be considered by the House Standing Committee on Education.

External References

SB 237

Does Free Speech Need More Safeguarding On Campus? GOP Lawmaker Says Yes, WMKY

Kentucky Senate Approves Free Speech Measure, KPR

Prepared by Will Haskell ‘18

Uploaded April 2, 2018

State senate considers Free Speech bill killed by state’s House of Representatives – 2018

South Dakota: House Bill 1073/Senate Bill 198 (2018)

Pierre, SD

Lawmakers in the South Dakota House of Representatives killed a bill that aims to protect freedom of speech on college campuses. However, identical legislation remains under consideration in the state senate. The pair of bills, proposed in January 2018, would eliminate Free Speech Zones on campuses and require public colleges and universities to publish annual reports that detail the steps taken to foster intellectual diversity. The bills’ sponsors were inspired to introduce the legislation after a 2015 incident involving the cancellation of a film that was to be shown at the University of South Dakota (USD).

Key Figures

Representative Michael Clark, a Republican, is the lead sponsor of HB 1073. “The first amendment belongs to everybody, regardless of their station in life,” Clark told The Argus Leader. “I swore an oath to protect these rights with my very life if I must … with House Bill 1073, I honor that oath.” Concerned by recent protests on college campuses across the country, Clark hopes that the bill’s public reporting component will allow lawmakers, as well as the general public, to scrutinize the behavior of university officials. “Students need to be able to question assumptions and debate ideas,” he told Campus Reform. “There are many concerns with how politically one-sided campuses have become; we simply are asking colleges to report on what they are doing to promote intellectual diversity on campus and create a marketplace of ideas, which is what we all should be striving for.”

Further Details

Both HB 1073 and SB 198 would eliminate Free Speech Zones by declaring “any outdoor area of a campus of a public institution of higher education” to be a public forum. While the bills would permit certain time, place, and manner restrictions on speech, students would be permitted to “spontaneously and contemporaneously assemble and distribute literature.” However, the right of counter-demonstrators to “materially and substantially prohibit the free expression rights of others on campus” would not be protected under this legislation.

HB 1073 was co-sponsored by 15 lawmakers in the House of Representatives and 15 state senators, all Republican. The bills were endorsed by the South Dakota College Republicans, as well as the state’s Republican Party, The Argus Leader reported.

Much of the debate concerning Free Speech at South Dakota’s public institutions of higher education is focused on an incident involving the film “Honor Diaries,” a 2013 documentary that explores human rights abuses in Middle Eastern countries. In March 2015, USD administrators cancelled a planned screening of the film, which had drawn criticism from Muslim advocacy groups, reported the Leader. University officials maintained that the cancellation was not an infringement on Free Speech. The showing “was cancelled because the format and setting did not allow for appropriate discussion following the screening,” USD Provost Jim Moran told the Leader. “Whenever USD hosts speakers or films that are controversial the goal is to promote education and better understanding of the people and issues involved.”

Unlike state legislators, university officials in South Dakota oppose the bill, which they feel could spark unnecessary and costly litigation. “The bill is redundant and unnecessary,” the president of USD’s student government association told the Leader. “It is an attempt at a solution to a problem that does not exist. There is no great student issue with the current policies and practices of free speech at USD.”

Moreover, USD officials contend that the legislation is premised on an outdated university policy. While the university did previously utilize Free Speech Zones, it has changed its policy and expanded Free Speech protections to all outdoor areas on campus already. “I think it’s very noble to support free speech by all sides of an issue,” USD Director of Communications Tena Haraldson told the Leader. “I just think that already happens.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota also regards the bill as unnecessary. “It’s already the law. It’s already what the Constitution requires,” a policy advisor for the organization told the Leader.

While outgoing Governor Dennis Daugaard (who must step down because of term limits in the state) has not yet decided whether to support the bill, Representative Kristi Noem, a Republican candidate to succeed him, has endorsed the legislation. “Given the rising level of censorship and the concerning limits placed on students’ exposure to differing perspectives, it’s important the Legislature act to permanently protect intellectual diversity on taxpayer-funded campuses,” Noem told the Leader.

Outcome

Killed in House, bill remains under consideration in South Dakota Senate

On February 2, HB 1073 was killed by South Dakota’s House Judiciary Committee. The bill divided Republican committee members, with some voting to support the bill and others to keep it from being taken up on the house floor. SB 198 was referred to the Committee on Education.

External References

HB 1073

SB 198

Lawmakers table campus free speech bill, its twin lives on in S.D. Legislature, The Argus Leader

University of South Dakota movie incident looms large in campus free speech debate, The Argus Leader

SD rep wants colleges to come clean about campus free speech, Campus Reform

Campus free speech bill based on outdated policy, USD spokeswoman says, The Argus Leader

Prepared by Will Haskell ’18

Uploaded March 21, 2018

 

YouTuber Logan Paul faces backlash after posting video of suicide victim – December 31, 2017

Sea of Trees Forest, Fujikawaguchiko, Japan

Vlogger Logan Paul came under fire after posting a video on YouTube on December 31, 2017, that showed his encounter with the corpse of a suicide victim in a Japanese forest. The video was removed just two days later, but its initial publication ignited weeks of outcry on social media. YouTube issued an official condemnation of the incident and later distanced itself from Paul.

Key Players

Logan Paul is a 22-year-old internet personality who regularly uploads comedic videos to YouTube, a practice known as vlogging. Paul has monetized his videos, meaning that he profits from the advertisements placed on his channel, which currently has more than 16 million subscribers. Although he chose not to monetize the video in question, Paul earned $12.5 million from his other videos in 2017.

YouTube is the Google-owned, video-sharing social network that hosts Paul’s content. Through its advertising program, Google Preferred, companies place ads on channels that the website identifies as highly influential.

Further Details

On December 31, 2017, Paul posted a 15-minute YouTube video in which he wades into the Sea of Trees Forest in Japan, a place notorious for its high incidence of suicides. Early in the video, he happens upon the body of a suicide victim. He laughs and remarks, “Bro, did we just find a dead person in the suicide forest?” and “Are you fucking with us?” Later, when someone in his crew says he is uncomfortable, Paul jokes, “What, you’ve never stood next to a dead body before?” and laughs. In the video, he also urges people who are experiencing mental illness to seek help.

Two days after posting the video, and after it had received six million views, Paul removed it from his channel. By then, however, people on social media were decrying the vlogger for trivializing suicide, and a petition calling on YouTube to delete his channel had amassed 671,000 signatures. He issued a written apology on Twitter, saying he had “never made a mistake like this before” and that he did not “do it for views.” The following day, Paul issued another apology, this time in a video, in which he expressed regret for publishing the Sea of Trees Forest video and asked his fans not to defend him. He ended by promising to “be better.” That same day, a YouTube spokesperson confirmed to CNN that the video violated the website’s standards by portraying gory content in a “shocking, sensational or disrespectful manner.”

On January 9, 2018, YouTube posted an open letter to Twitter that condemned the incident, adding that suicide should never be “a driving force for views.” The next day, YouTube announced a series of sanctions against the social media star.

Outcome

YouTube removes Paul as a preferred ad partner and cancels future projects with him

YouTube announced on January 10, 2018, that it would no longer include Paul in the Google Preferred program, meaning that his videos would not be flagged as highly influential for advertisers. The company said it would cut Paul from the fourth season of its original comedy series “Foursome” and would suspend any future projects with the vlogger.

Paul’s channel remains active

After YouTube’s sanctions, Paul continued to post videos weekly. He recently renewed his social media notoriety by posting a video in which he is shown tasing rats. As of March 7, 2018, his channel’s subscriber base had grown to nearly 17 million.

External References

Logan Paul’s original video

Logan Paul Apology: Read It in Full, The Independent

YouTube’s open letter

YouTube says Logan Paul video violated its policies, CNN

The Social-Media Star and the Suicide, The Atlantic

Logan Paul, YouTube Star, Apologizes As Critics Slam Video Showing Dead Body, NPR

Logan Paul: Following the YouTube controversy, should social media have the same regulations as journalism? The Independent

YouTube distances itself from Logan Paul as it drops him from comedy series in the wake of suicide video scandal, Daily Mail

Delete Logan Paul’s YouTube Channel, Change.org

The World’s Highest-Paid YouTube Stars, Forbes

Prepared by Jesus Rodriguez ‘19

Uploaded March 20, 2018

 

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – October 2017

Students sanctioned for peaceful protest during homecoming weekend

Troy, NY

Officials at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) denied students’ application to host a peaceful demonstration during homecoming weekend in October 2017. They wanted to protest the transition of control over their student union, which is now under university administration purview rather than being student-run. Following the denial of this application, which was the second one rejected by RPI administrators, students occupied the prohibited area anyway, and the university took disciplinary action against them.

Key Players

Save the Union, a student-led effort at RPI, was formed in March 2016 when it became clear that control of the student union was being transferred from the student body to the university administration.

Bryan Johns and Michael Gardner, students at RPI, were charged with breaking university policy by distributing materials advertising the protest. Johns was also the student who had initially applied for the permit for a peaceful demonstration on October 13, 2017, during homecoming.

Michael Arno is director of student rights, responsibilities, and judicial affairs at RPI. On November 1, 2017, he delivered an incident report to Johns and Gardner that documented their involvement in the unsanctioned demonstration. Arno had reportedly seen the two protesting that day, but said nothing to them at the time. This incident report began a judicial process that ended on December 12, 2017, when Johns and Gardner were notified that they had been found not responsible for breaking university policies. The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) had pressured RPI to make this decision.

Travis Apgar is assistant vice president for student life and dean of students at RPI, and has been the point of contact with the student body regarding the ongoing debate over the administration of the union. He sent the letter to Johns and Gardner clearing them of any charges of wrongdoing.

Further Details

On September 28, 2017, RPI students applied for a permit for a peaceful demonstration on homecoming weekend. Apgar denied this request in an October 4 letter to Johns, one of the student organizers for Save the Union. The students had requested permission to demonstrate in a location near to a planned black-tie event hosted by Shirley Ann Jackson, RPI’s President.

After its request to protest was denied, Save the Union wrote an open letter to the RPI community inviting students to the “Rensselaer Union Lab Safety Class,” to be held at 4 pm on Friday, October 13, 2017. The organizers called on their fellow students to join them in wearing lab safety goggles and black clothing to “mourn the loss of the student union.”

Ahead of the unsanctioned protest, the university erected fences throughout campus in order to separate any potential demonstrators from visiting alumni. Administrators also tore down Save the Union signs the morning of October 13. A video of this action appeared on Youtube.

After Johns and Gardner were charged with violating certain university policies for distribution of advertising materials in a residence hall, the NYCLU intervened with a letter to the administration. It read, in part:

“We are concerned because . . . 1) the alleged policy regarding prior authorization before distributing flyers in residence halls does not actually seem to exist and it also seems to be in violation of the Student Bill of Rights, which guarantees free expression. It is very worrisome that RPI would essentially make up a non-existent policy to try to chill free expression by students, and then resort to such absurdities as claiming it falls under the policy on Operating a Business; […] 3) it appears that Michael Gardner and Bryan Johns may have been singled out in a retaliatory manner based on prior events; […] and 5) the letters which warn that an apparently non-existent policy must be followed in the future chill free expression.”

Outcome

RPI named one of worst colleges for Free Speech in 2018

According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), RPI has a long history of censoring controversial opinions on campus. On February 13, 2018, FIRE listed it as one of the worst colleges for Free Speech in 2018, largely because of this incident.

University retains control of union

After the unsanctioned homecoming protest, Save the Union continued its efforts to regain student control of the union. However, the student union remains under the control of the university administration.

External Resources

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute: Prohibition on Homecoming Demonstrations, FIRE.org

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – Student Response to Denial of Application for Approval of Peaceful Demonstration – October 5, 2017, FIRE.org

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – Denial of Application for Approval of Peaceful Demonstration – October 4, 2017, FIRE.org

Travis Apgar Email on Clarification on the hiring of the Director of the Union Position – September 20, 2017, Savetheunion.xyz

New York Civil Liberties Union Letter to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, December 21, 2017, FIRE.org

Save the Union website

Dean of Students Office begins judicial inquiries into protest participation, The Polytechnic

The 10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech: 2018, FIRE.org

Video of Save the Union signs being torn down, Youtube

Prepared by Emma Vahey ‘20

Uploaded March 19, 2018

ESPN’s Jemele Hill sparks White House controversy with anti-Trump tweets – September 2017

Washington, DC

ESPN SportsCenter host Jemele Hill posted two tweets on September 11, 2017, expressing her dislike of President Donald Trump. They elicited a strong backlash on Twitter and in the media, leading a reporter to ask White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to comment on them. She called Hill’s tweets a “fireable offense.”

Key Players

Jemele Hill is a black sports journalist from Detroit. She joined ESPN in 2006 as a national columnist on ESPN.com, before beginning a podcast with fellow sports journalist Michael Smith called His & Hers. In February 2017, Smith and Hill became evening co-anchors of SportsCenter. Their show was called SC6 with Michael and Jemele. In September 2017, she posted a series of tweets criticizing President Trump. Two of them read:

“Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period.”

“Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is the only daughter of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. After managing her father’s presidential campaign in 2016, she became the Trump campaign’s senior advisor handling communications for coalitions. When Trump won the election, Huckabee Sanders was named deputy White House press secretary. Following Sean Spicer’s resignation, she assumed the role of press secretary in July 2017. She is the third woman ever to hold the position.

Further Details

The day after Hill’s tweets incited an immediate backlash, ESPN tweeted out a statement, which read, “The comments on Twitter from Jemele Hill regarding the President do not represent the position of ESPN. We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate.” In a White House press briefing the following day, a reporter read Hill’s tweets out loud to Huckabee Sanders and asked her to comment. The press secretary called them some of “the more outrageous comments that anybody could make and certainly something that I think is a fireable offense by ESPN.”

That same day, the National Association of Black Journalists released a statement supporting Hill’s right to speak freely “on all matters of discussion, within and outside the world of sports, as they do not impinge on her duties as a host and commentator,” reported NBC News.

A few days after Hill’s tweets were posted, Trump weighed in from his Twitter account. He tweeted, “ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers. Apologize for untruth!”

Ratings for SportsCenter in the 6 pm time slot did drop 20 percent year-over-year after Hill and Smith became hosts, compared to when Lindsay Czarniak headlined the show, reported Forbes. However, ESPN’s overall ratings are decreasing regularly. Pardon the Interruption, for example, saw a similar drop.

Outcome

Jemele Hill suspended from ESPN following a second social media violation

Despite Huckabee Sanders’ claims that Hill’s tweets were a “fireable offense,” ESPN did not dismiss the sports anchor. However, the company did take action when in October 2017 Hill reportedly violated its social media guidelines a second time. When Cowboys Head Coach Jerry Jones threatened to bench any of his players who “disrespect the [American] flag” and kneel during the national anthem, Hill responded on Twitter by suggesting people who disagreed with Jones ought to boycott his team’s advertisers. As a result, ESPN suspended her for two weeks. Her tweets on the topic, posted on October 8 and 9, read:

Jerry Jones also has created a problem for his players, specifically the black ones. If they don’t kneel, some will see them as sellouts.”

“If you strongly reject what Jerry Jones said, the key is his advertisers. Don’t place the burden squarely on the players. […]”

“Just so we’re clear: I’m not advocating a NFL boycott. But an unfair burden has been put on players in Dallas & Miami w/ anthem directives.”

“If fans really are that upset about what JJ & Stephen Ross have done, don’t call the players sellouts, but you’re watching every Sunday.”

Following the announcement of Hill’s suspension, Trump took to Twitter once more. On October 9, 2017, he tweeted, “With Jemele Hill at the mike [sic], it is no wonder ESPN ratings have “tanked,” in fact, tanked so badly it is the talk of the industry!”

Jemele Hill leaves ESPN’s SportsCenter

In January 2018, it was announced that Hill would move from SC6 to The Undefeated, an ESPN digital news outlet that analyzes sports, race, and culture, reported Variety. Despite rumors that she was demoted or removed from the show, according to Forbes, Hill took to Twitter to claim that the move was her own decision. “I asked to leave the show,” she wrote. She also thanked her co-host, Smith, the SC6 staff, and her SportsCenter colleagues.

External References

Did Jemele Hill Get Demoted From SportsCenter Or Request The Move To ‘The Undefeated’?, Forbes

Donald Trump’s Tweet

Jemele Hill, known for anti-Trump tweets, is leaving ESPN’s SportsCenter, Vox.com

Jemele Hill Will Leave ESPN’s ‘SportsCenter’, Variety

White House Says ESPN Should Fire Anchor Who Called Trump White Supremacist, NBCNews

Jemele Jones Suspended by ESPN over Jerry Jones Tweets, The Cut

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says anthem protests are damaging the NFL, The Guardian

Jemele Hill Suspended by ESPN After Response to Jerry Jones, The New York Times

Prepared by Bridget McElroy ‘18

Uploaded March 19, 2018

Responding to pipeline demonstrations, North Dakota governor signs four bills that restrict protest – 2017

North Dakota legislature – House Bills 1304, 1293, and 1426, and Senate Bill 2302 (2017)

Bismarck, ND

In the wake of protests concerning the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAP), North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum signed four bills that aim to protect private property and infrastructure. These bills addressed a variety of issues, including the use of masks in public forums and the penalties for trespassing on private property.

Key Figures

Governor Doug Burgum signed the four bills into law on February 23, 2017. His office announced that the bills were “designed to protect landowner rights, deter criminal activity and expand the ability to appoint outside law enforcement officers to assist North Dakota agencies.” Burgum is a Republican.

Further Details

In 2016, environmental activists and Native American tribes, most notably the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, clashed with law enforcement officials over the construction of the DAP. The pipeline, which transports oil from North Dakota to Illinois, drew criticism for crossing the Missouri River at a point that allegedly threatened ancient burial grounds and clean water supplies. In the spring of 2016, protesters established a camp to block construction of the pipeline in the contested area. Throughout that summer, the number of protesters climbed into the thousands, reported Time. In August, private security forces hired by a Dallas-based energy company used pepper spray and guard dogs to remove protesters who had trespassed onto private land, NPR reported. According to US News, the protests resulted in nearly 770 arrests.

North Dakota legislators reacted to the DAP demonstrations by introducing a series of bills that restricted the right to protest. Representative Terry Jones, a Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee, told The Bismarck Tribune that “the Judiciary Committee is working really hard to balance the rights of North Dakota citizens to protest and the rights of North Dakota citizens to live under rule of law and conduct their day-to-day activities.”

Some legislators opposed the wave of bills, noting that they were hastily introduced as a reaction to the pipeline protests. “I am opposed to knee-jerk legislation because it’s almost always bad legislation,” Representative Rick Becker, a Republican, told the Tribune.

Four bills were approved by both legislative chambers. HB 1304 prohibits individuals from wearing a mask or hood that covers part or all of the face when in a public area, reported the Tribune. Representative Al Carlson, a Republican, was inspired by masked environmental protesters to introduce the bill. “That’s not a peaceful protest,” he remarked to the Tribune about the demonstrations against the pipeline. “It might be legal in Baghdad but not in Bismarck.” The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Dakota opposed this legislation on First Amendment grounds.

HB 1293 allows law enforcement officials to issue a $250 citation for trespassing on private property. Proponents of the law noted that the bill is modeled on speeding ticket violations, reported the Tribune.

HB 1426 increases the potential penalty for rioting to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. Moreover, the penalty for inciting a riot that involves 100 people or more was increased to 10 years in jail and a $20,000 fine. The ACLU of North Dakota argued that this bill would “likely chill First Amendment speech, criminalize legitimate protest activity, and encumber the criminal justice system.”

Finally, SB 2302 permits North Dakota’s attorney general to respond to a large protest by appointing out-of-state law enforcement officers as “ad-hoc special agents,” according to the ACLU of North Dakota.

Many protesters who were involved in the DAP demonstrations believed that this legislative trend violated the First Amendment. “These [bills] are meant to criminalize the protests with no real concern for constitutional law,” a Native American environmental activist told NBC News.

Though four bills ultimately passed the legislature and were signed by the governor, others were rejected by lawmakers. House Bill 1383, for example, would have made loitering “in an unusual manner that warrants justifiable and reasonable alarm” a Class B misdemeanor. This legislation was rejected for being too broad, reported the Tribune. Another failed bill, HB 1203, would have cleared drivers who hit protesters of any liability, so long as the collision was “unintentional,” reported the LA Times.

Outcome

Bills Signed After Protest Camps Cleared

On the afternoon of February 23, 2017, Governor Burgum signed the four bills into law. Earlier that day, the main pipeline protest camps had been cleared by law enforcement officials, according to the Tribune. Each bill contained an emergency clause that rendered it effective immediately.

External References

HB 1304

HB 1293

HB 1426

SB 2302

House approves most DAPL protest bills, The Bismarck Tribune

In North Dakota, it could become legal to hit a protester with your car, Los Angeles Times

Dakota Access Pipeline Protests In North Dakota Turn Violent, NPR

Burgum Signs Bills Aimed at North Dakota Pipeline Protesters, US News

Burgum signs protest bills after main camp is cleared, The Bismarck Tribune

Pipeline Protesters Decry North Dakota Bills That ‘Criminalize’ Protests, NBC News

Bill would ban protesters from using face masks, The Bismarck Tribune

2017 Legislative Recap Part One: First Amendment Bills, ACLU of North Dakota

Prepared by Will Haskell ‘18

Uploaded March 19, 2018

 

Protests outside Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington turn violent – May 16, 2017

Washington, D.C.

On May 16, 2017, a group of protesters who had gathered across from the home of the Turkish ambassador to the United States were assaulted by embassy security guards, bodyguards for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and other non-affiliated individuals. Local police intervened to stop the attacks, but not before eleven people were injured, nine of whom were taken to the hospital. In the aftermath, two U.S. citizens pled guilty to their involvement in the assault, and 15 Turkish security officials and four other individuals were indicted for their role in the altercation.

Key Players

Recep Tayyip Erdogan is president of Turkey. He served as prime minister from 2003 to 2014, and was elected president in Turkey’s first-ever direct elections in 2014. His time in power has seen many controversial incidents:

In late May 2013, anti-government demonstrations broke out in Istanbul. The protests began when a small group of demonstrators gathered in Gezi Park, located in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, to protest Erdogan’s plan to bulldoze the park and build a mall in its place. They were angry about the negative impact razing the park would have on the environment. Turkish police tried to clear the park using tear gas and water cannons, injuring more than 100 people, The Guardian reported. The protesters were eventually cleared, but demonstrations spread across the country in response to what many perceived as excessive force on the part of police in Istanbul.

In December 2013, a corruption probe was launched to investigate more than 50 government officials, including members of Erdogan’s inner circle. The government dismissed some350 police officers before the prosecutor eventually ceased the inquiry.

In July 2016, Erdogan faced an attempted coup by a portion of the Turkish military. Addressing the nation via Facetime, he urged his supporters to go into the streets and demonstrate against the military. The coup was eventually put down.

In April 2017, a constitutional amendment passed via referendum, with 51 percent of the vote. It disbanded the Turkish parliament, gave more power to the executive, and made it possible for Erdogan to remain in power until 2029. International election monitors questioned the legitimacy of the referendum result, in light of last-minute changes to the voting process and state media coverage that was biased in favor of its passage.

Further Details

On May 16, 2017, Erdogan met with President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C. During a joint press conference, he pledged to help the U.S. fight terrorism and praised Trump for his election. Trump commented that the U.S. and Turkey have a “great relationship” and that “[they] will make it even better.”

Meanwhile, approximately 24 demonstrators gathered outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence, waiting for Erdogan’s return from the White House. The group included Americans, Kurds, and Armenians who opposed the Turkish president’s policies. They gathered in Sheridan Circle, across from a group of Erdogan’s supporters, including government security forces and other armed individuals. A line of D.C. police officers initially separated the protesters from the pro-Erdogan forces, but the latter group soon rushed across the street through the police lines and attacked the protesters. The police attempted to break up the fighting.

A video posted to Voice of America’s Turkish language service showed the attacks on the protesters. Another video also showed Erdogan watching as he exited his car and entered the residence.

Flint Arthur, of Baltimore, Maryland, one of the anti-Erdogan demonstrators involved in the clash, told CNN, “We are protesting (Erdogan’s) policies in Turkey, in Syria, and in Iraq. . . . They think they can engage in the same sort of suppression of protest and free speech that they engage in in Turkey. They stopped us for a few minutes . . . But we still stayed and continued to protest Erdogan’s tyrannical regime.”

The following day, the U.S. State Department issued a statement condemning the violence. It read, “We are concerned by the violent incidents involving protesters and Turkish security personnel . . . . Violence is never an appropriate response to free speech, and we support the rights of people everywhere to free expression and peaceful protest,” reported Politico. The State Department also reportedly reprimanded the Turkish ambassador for the incident. In response, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry lodged a complaint with the U.S. ambassador to Turkey about the police’s role in halting the incident. It blamed U.S. authorities for their “inability . . . to take sufficient precautions” to prevent violence. The complaint also alleged that U.S. “security personnel” had taken “aggressive and unprofessional actions.”

The Turkish embassy claimed that the protesters were affiliated with the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), a terrorist organization that has been in conflict with the Turkish government for 30 years. Embassy officials insisted that the protesters were “aggressively provoking Turkish-American citizens who had peacefully assembled to greet the President” and who “responded in self-defense,” reported CNN and Politico. In contrast to these allegations, DC Police Chief Peter Newsham announced in June 2017 that there was no evidence the protesters were associated with any terrorist group.

On September 19, 2017, Erdogan told PBS Newshour that Trump had apologized for the incident. Erdogan said he was sorry as well, but he maintained that the protesters had instigated the violence and that local law enforcement was slow in stepping in to stop the fighting, reported Business Insider.

A group of Republican lawmakers called the incident an “affront to the United States.” Senator John McCain of Arizona tweeted, “This is the United States of America. We do not do this here. There is no excuse for this type of thuggish behavior.”

Outcome

Turkish government blamed U.S. law enforcement, protesters for violence

The Turkish government alleged that the protesters were responsible for inciting the violence, and claimed they were affiliated with the PKK, a terrorist group in Turkey. President Erdogan also claimed that U.S. law enforcement was slow in responding to the violence.

19 people indicted, two American citizens pleaded guilty

In the immediate aftermath of the incident, two people were arrested: Ayten Necmi, of Woodside, New York, was charged with aggravated assault, and Jalal Kheirabaoi, of Fairfax, Virginia, was charged with assault on a police officer, reported The New York Times. The two were allegedly among the protesters.

In August 2017, U.S. officials indicted 19 other individuals for their role in the incident. Fifteen were Turkish security officials, and four were individuals not associated with the Turkish government. Several of them faced charges of assault with a deadly weapon, reported CNN. All 19 faced felony charges of conspiracy to commit a crime of violence, reported CBS News.

In December 2017, two U.S. citizens, Sinan Narin and Eyup Yildirim, pleaded guilty to charges of assault with significant bodily injury. Video footage showed the two kicking protesters in the head while they were on the ground, reported The Washington Post. They are not known to be associated with the Turkish government.

External References

Turkish forces clear Istanbul park, CNN

Failed coup in Turkey: What you need to know, CNN

Turkey tests Trump’s patience after protesters roughed up, Politico

In video, Erdogan watches as his guards clash with protesters, The New York Times

International monitors deliver scathing verdict on Turkish referendum, CNN

Turkey referendum: Erdogan declares victory, CNN

State Department condemns violence by Erdogan security guards at D.C. protest, Politico

Recep Tayyip Erdogan Fast Facts, CNN

Turkish president: Trump told me he was ‘sorry’ for bloody protest in DC, Business Insider

Turkish security officials indicted following Erdogan’s May DC visit, CNN

Protesters injured outside Turkish embassy in DC after Trump-Erdogan meeting, CNN

Erdogan security forces launch ‘brutal attack’ on Washington protesters, officials say, The New York Times

More arrests in attack on protesters at Turkish embassy, CBS News

Two U.S. citizens offer guilty pleas for attack outside Turkish embassy, The Washington Post

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

Uploaded March 5, 2018

Cooper Medical School of Rowan University – January 2017

Medical student punished by school for Instagram photos

Camden, NJ

In January 2017, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU) censured a student for violating the school’s social media policy, citing two photos the student had posted to her Instagram account before she had matriculated there. One photo showed the woman nude on a topless beach, her nipples blurred in accordance with Instagram’s policy, with “#freethenipple” in the caption. The other photo showed her in a CMSRU lab coat in front of a school backdrop. The student, who has remained anonymous, was required to meet with school officials, who advised her to alter or terminate her social media usage.

Key Players

CMSRU is a public medical school founded in 2012 in Camden, New Jersey, with a student body of approximately 300 students. Its “Social Network Policy” encourages students to be thoughtful when posting on social media, but according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the original policy was not compliant with the First Amendment.

Further Details

According to FIRE, the student was first contacted about her social media usage in July 2016 by CMSRU’s associate dean for diversity and community affairs, Jocelyn Mitchell-Williams, who alerted her to the school’s policy and warned her that “once students matriculate at CMSRU the policy . . . is in effect.” The student responded to Mitchell-Williams’ email to ask for clarification, but said she never received a response.

On January 6, 2017, Marion Lombardi, CMSRU’s chief student affairs officer, and Erin Pukenas, the assistant dean for student affairs, called a meeting with the student and gave her a “Professionalism Intervention Report” regarding a “collage of sexually explicit photos.” The report asserted that she was in violation of the social media policy because of her photos on Instagram. Comments on the photos seemed to suggest she was “condoning sexual promiscuity,” the student affairs representatives said. Lombardi told the student this report could affect her future at the school, as well as her medical career. Pukenas told her that any CMSRU-related posts on the student’s account must be removed.

When Carolyn Bekes, CMSRU’s director of professionalism, met with the student later that month, she assigned her a “punishment” in the form of a PowerPoint presentation on social media and professionalism in medicine. The student completed the presentation in early March 2017.

Bekes, who has worked for Cooper University Hospital since 1977, encouraged the student to curtail or end her usage of social media in order to prevent future violations of CMSRU’s policy. The director of professionalism would not confirm that the presentation would “‘close’ the files in a way that they will never be used against [the student] in the future,” and encouraged her to have another person, preferably someone “more conservative,” review her posts on social media before making them public.

When Pukenas and Lombardi met with the student on January 6, they had reportedly explained that the social media policy was intentionally “kind of broad . . . because [the school] can’t get into every specific.” The deliberate lack of specificity in the initial policy caused FIRE to call it unconstitutional, and “at odds with the most basic principles of First Amendment precedent, which makes clear that broad and vague policies do not comport with the First Amendment.”

On May 9, 2017, FIRE sent a letter to the CMSRU documenting the weaknesses and errors of the school’s “Social Network Policy.” FIRE demanded that the school remove the “Professionalism Intervention Report” from the student’s file and revise the policy immediately.

Outcome

CMSRU updates Social Network Policy

After receiving FIRE’s letter, CMSRU amended its social media policy. Specifically, CMSRU removed language regarding “potentially offensive language,” “personal photographs of others that may reasonably be interpreted as condoning . . . sexual promiscuity,” and “posting potentially inflammatory or unflattering material on another individual’s website.”

External Resources

Fast Facts, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University

Letter to Cooper Medical School of Rowan University — May 9, 2017, FIRE

Text of May 9, 2017 Letter, FIRE

Second Letter to Cooper Medical School of Rowan University — October 2017, FIRE

Cooper Medical School of Rowan University: Student Punished Under Unconstitutional Social Media Policy, FIRE

Cooper Medical School of Rowan University revises social media policy after letter from FIRE

Distinguished Doctors Create Framework for Success in Medicine, Cooper Medical School Blog

Prepared by Emma Vahey ‘20

Uploaded March 5, 2018

Fordham University – December 7, 2017

Students wearing MAGA hats kicked out of coffee shop

New York, NY

On December 7, 2017, a group of Fordham University students were told to leave an on-campus coffee shop because they were violating its “safe space” policy. The students were wearing “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) hats. Fordham President Joseph McShane released a statement after the incident asking observers to treat students on both sides of the incident with compassion.

Key Players

Aaron Spring is a junior at Fordham and a member of the university’s chapter of the College Republicans. He was among the students who were kicked out of the coffee shop. When asked if the group had intended to provoke a confrontation, Spring responded, “No, of course not. We were just a couple of friends going to get coffee, have a talk.”

Michael Esposito is a sophomore at Fordham and was also involved in the incident. When a student worker yelled at him “Fascism! Nazis!” for wearing the MAGA hat, he responded, “I do not see fascism, Nazis on this hat. I see America.” He later told the New York Post, “It was humiliating to be called a Nazi in front of so many people I go to school with. It’s almost scary.”

Father Joseph P. McShane, S.J. is president of Fordham University. He took office in 2003.

Further Details

An unidentified student worker at Rodrigue’s Coffee House, located on Fordham University’s campus in the Bronx, became angry when several students entered the shop wearing pro-Trump MAGA hats. She yelled at them, “Five minutes! Get out! . . . I’m protecting our customers. . . . You are wearing hats that completely violate safe space policy. You have to take it off, or you have to go.” When Esposito asked her to explain, she shouted, “Fascism! Nazis!” A video of the altercation was posted to Campus Reform’s website.

The coffee shop’s “Safer Space Policy,” which the student worker accused the students of violating, directs guests “not [to] make assumptions about someone’s gender, sexuality, race, class, or experiences,” and mandates “No racism – No sexism – No homophobia” in the space, reported the Post.

Though Spring told the Post the group was not trying to provoke a confrontation, a member of the Fordham College Republicans told Campus Reform, “We went [to Rodrigue’s] because we wanted to test the unwritten rule that conservatives were banned from that coffee shop. . . . We went there and just started doing some homework and studying. Then we were asked to leave.”

Outcome

Fordham clarifies ‘safe space’ policy, announces investigation

In the wake of the incident, President McShane released a statement to the Fordham community. He clarified that the university itself does not have a safe space policy. Instead, he said Fordham should be a safe space “in the sense that it is and must remain a place where all of the members of the University community are free to share their opinions, and to have those opinions respectfully tested by their peers.” The statement concluded with a plea for commentators and onlookers to approach the incident with compassion, since those involved in this situation are students; first and foremost they are here to learn, and they may make mistakes.”

The statement also declared that Fordham does not exclude any students from its community based on their political views, and said that the university was investigating the incident.

External References

Students wearing MAGA hats booted from ‘safe space’ coffee shop, The New York Post

Campus coffee shop evicts College Republicans from ‘safe space,’ CampusReform

Fordham University investigating after students were kicked out of campus coffee shop because of ‘MAGA’ hats, The Root

Fordham College Republicans kicked out of campus coffee shop because of MAGA hats, Fox News

University President statement on Rodrigue’s Coffee House incident

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

Uploaded March 5, 2018

University of Alabama – January 15, 2018

College student expelled, suspended after racist Instagram posts

Tuscaloosa, AL

Freshman Harley Barber was expelled from the University of Alabama (UA) after she posted two self-recorded videos including racial slurs to Instagram on January 15, 2018, which was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A week later, a Georgia State University student-athlete was suspended from the soccer team for using the same racial slur on Instagram, and chose to withdraw from her school.

Key Players

Harley Barber is a former UA student and Alpha Phi sorority member. She was just beginning her second semester of freshman year at UA when she posted the racist videos. After the expulsion, Barber returned to her hometown of Marlton, New Jersey.

Linda Kahangi, executive director of Alpha Phi International Fraternity (the sorority to which Barber belonged), released a statement that called the content of the videos hateful and offensive. She also confirmed that Barber was no longer a member of Alpha Phi.

Further Details

In the first video, Barber turns off a sink faucet, and says “we do not waste water because of the people in Syria. . . . I love how I act like I love black people, because I fucking hate n——-rs.” She repeats the n-word multiple times, using it to describe the people for whom she is supposedly saving water. In the second video, Barber says that she can say the n-word as much as she wants because she’s from New Jersey and because she’s “in the South now.” Another woman can be heard in the background suggesting that Barber not post the video to social media.

Barber posted the videos on her second, private account, known as a “Finsta,” short for “fake Instagram.” They were made public by a now-suspended Twitter account, and were then circulated on the social media platform, with one video quickly accumulating more than 5,000 views. Drawing even more attention to the videos, UA running back Damien Harris also tweeted about it, citing them as evidence that “racism isn’t dead.”

UA officials investigated and quickly moved to expel Barber from the university. She was also removed from the UA chapter of the Alpha Phi sorority. Stuart Bell, president of UA, released a statement following the incident, condemning Barber’s behavior and expressing his “personal disgust and disappointment” at the “racist and disturbing videos” she posted. It read, in part:

“Like many of you, I find the videos highly offensive and deeply hurtful, not only to our students and our entire University community, but to everyone who viewed them. The actions of this student do not represent the larger student body or the values of our University, and she is no longer enrolled here. We hold our students to much higher standards, and we apologize to everyone who has seen the videos and been hurt by this hateful, ignorant and offensive behavior. This is not who we are; it is unacceptable and unwelcome here at UA.”

A week after Barber was expelled from UA, a Georgia State University freshman, Natalia Martinez, was suspended from the soccer team, and ultimately chose to withdraw from the university, after she used a variation of the n-word on her Finsta account.

Outcome

Student expelled from university and sorority

Barber was expelled from UA and her sorority within days of the videos going public. She told the New York Post that she “did something bad,” and that there is “no excuse” for her behavior. She has returned to New Jersey.

External Resources

Harley Barber mom: I agree with Alabama expulsion over racist Instagram videos, NJ.com

University of Alabama investigates sorority member’s racist video, AL.com

Harley Barber’s mom says daughter is degrading herself, OK with punishment, AL.com

Sorority sister speaks out on racist videos that got her booted from college, New York Post

College athlete suspended, leaves school over racist social media post, AL.com

Prepared by Emma Vahey ‘20

Uploaded March 5, 2018