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Binghamton University says ‘provocative’ displays by political student organizations led to campus protest

VESTAL (WBNG) — Binghamton University Vice President Brian Rose has addressed protests that occurred Nov. 14 on campus in an official press release sent to students on Monday.

The press release reads:

On Thursday, Nov. 14, two groups tabling outside of the Union attracted counter-protesters. The tension between the groups tabling and protesters became volatile and University Police intervened to remove the tabling groups in the interest of the safety of all involved.

Social media posts have misrepresented the course of events and encouraged political pressure upon the University based upon those misrepresentations. What actually transpired and how the University did and will respond is as follows:

The College Republicans, an organization chartered by the Student Association (SA), was joined by another group known as Turning Point that, by its own choice, is not chartered by the SA or otherwise recognized by the University. Representatives of the two groups set up tables outside the Union in a reservable space without having followed procedures to properly secure use of the space. Representatives of the Union professional staff and of the SA notified the tabling students that they were tabling without reservation in a space that had to be reserved in advance and asked them to relocate. The groups refused twice to move. The groups’ display included provocative posters with gun imagery, this being the same day as the Saugus High School shooting. Self-evidently from the nature of their display and their refusal to comply with procedures for reserving the space in question, the groups intended to be provocative. Social media activity suggesting they were handing out hot chocolate and promoting an upcoming lecture fail to accurately represent the context.

Students offended by the display and disapproving of the views of the two tabling organizations gathered around the tables in increasing number. University Police were alerted by several members of the University community and responded to monitor the escalating situation. Counter-protesters began pulling down the tables and sweeping the political literature and materials of the tabling groups into boxes in an attempt to close down the tabling activity. This increased the volatility of the situation and University Police stepped in between students from the tabling groups and protesting students to try to maintain safety. Eventually the police directed the tabling groups to abandon the area and escorted them away. Some protesters viewed the actions of police as protecting the tabling students based upon race and directed chants at police. The escalating situation was successfully defused without physical injury to anyone present.

The University’s response was and will be guided by principles and values related to safety, equity, free expression and reason. As the College Republicans were advised prior to the incident escalating, they had violated applicable procedures related to reserving the space in question. The purpose of those procedures is to avoid conflicts among groups for use of the space and to allow the University to safely manage activity in this area. Had the group followed procedures, the University would have had the opportunity to plan for what was self-evidently a provocative presentation in a manner that may have facilitated expressive activity by both the tabling groups and those who wished to demonstrate against them. Any future action taken against the College Republicans will pertain to their violation of University and SA policies and procedures and not to the content of their message. The University will also work with the SA to ensure that there is clarity and understanding around policies and procedures related to the use of space by campus-affiliated groups and others, and will review how to best respond to those violating these policies and procedures.

There were also protesters who acted in a manner that may have violated University rules. In the context of the incident and in keeping with the principles and values noted above, the University did not seek to identify or charge any protesters. To do so would have escalated an already volatile situation and run counter to the primary interest in safely de-escalating the situation. In other circumstances, the University has taken action against individuals infringing upon expressive activity without regard to viewpoint. Our response has and will continue to take into account the full context in each instance.

We acknowledge the larger political context in our country that is polarizing our society. It is unfortunate that interests external to the campus have seized upon this incident and attempted to mischaracterize it to feed their own narrative and to attempt to influence our response. We will not be responding to those external voices or altering our approach as a result of external pressure. We will continue to work within our community to facilitate the expression of the many diverse viewpoints that are present on our campus, to encourage members of our community to respect one another through disagreement, to maintain a safe campus community and to exercise professional judgment fairly to achieve those ends.

Brian T. Rose
Vice President for Student Affairs

The Binghamton University Students Association says it will continue to work with students’ rights to protest and assemble.

One student told 12 News he has become disillusioned with the whole discussion on campus, saying people should be respectful other than loud.

“People are vindictive and aggressive in trying to represent their views,” said senior Henry Groome.

Matthew Benninger

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