Vanderbilt University

Back in August of 2013, The College Fix reported on four Vandy football players charged with rape.

Yesterday, two of them were convicted of the crime. Two others await trial.

The AP reports (via The News & Observer):

It took a jury three hours Tuesday to reach a verdict convicting Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey of multiple charges of aggravated rape and sexual battery. The jury saw powerful video evidence and photographs of the 21-year-old student being sexually assaulted on a dorm room floor.

Prosecutors say Brandon Banks and Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie also were in that dorm room in the early morning hours of Jan. 23, 2013. A prosecutor says he will make a decision soon about their trial. McKenzie testified at the trial that he didn’t touch the woman, but did take photos.

The jury deliberated for three hours before announcing that Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey were guilty, rejecting claims that they were too drunk to know what they were doing and that a college culture of binge drinking and promiscuous sex should be blamed for the attack. Batey was stoic, staring ahead and Vandenburg shook his head “no,” appearing stunned. His father had an outburst and abruptly left the courtroom.

Photographic evidence was “courtesy” of Vandenburg, whose attorneys conceded that he “took ‘deplorable’ photos.”

Dormitory closed-circuit TV images showed the players “carrying [the] unconscious woman into an elevator and down a hallway, taking compromising pictures of her and then dragging her into the room.”

Read the full story.

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Conservative law professor Carol Swain of Vanderbilt University, whose column critical of Islam sparked a protest against her on campus accusing her of hate speech, has received a nice little present in the mail.

Writing on her Facebook page, she notes:

carolswain

So true. Can you imagine if someone sent a fake penis to a women’s studies professor? The outrage and indignation would have been loud and severe. Administrators would have launched an investigation. A sit-in on misogyny would have been scheduled.

Professor Swain handled it with class.

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“Why can’t I say that Mohammed had a wife who was six years old?”

As Muslim students at Vanderbilt and their allies gathered to protest an anti-Islam op-ed by a conservative black professor, they probably didn’t expect their party to be crashed by a 1980s-era Saturday Night Live cast member-turned-Tea Partier.

Victoria Jackson, known for portraying celebrities such as Sally Struthers and La Toya Jackson and co-starring with “Weird Al” Yankovic in UHF, tried to take the mic after the protest organizer spoke, but it was summarily turned off, as she recounted in a blog post.

Jackson – who carried a “ban Sharia” sign with her, later tried to convince a Muslim man at the protest to have a debate on “Sharia law and whether we have freedom of speech,” as captured by The College Fix’s exclusive video.

“Why can’t I say that Mohammed had a wife who was six years old?” Jackson said, prompting several protesters to interrupt her and complain that the media were paying attention to her.


School’s response: Engage your critics

The Saturday afternoon protest was organized by Muslim student Farishtay Yamin, who looked on proudly as chants of “Vanderbilt united will never be divided!” and “To reach peace, teach peace!” grew louder.

It was in response to an op-ed written in The Tennessean by Carol Swain, a professor at Vanderbilt Law School.

Responding to the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris but not targeting any person or group on campus, Swain asserted that Islam “poses an absolute danger to us and our children” and called for “serious monitoring of Islamic organizations.”

swainprotest.JRRidley

The sizeable Muslim population at Vanderbilt and the Muslim Students Association, one of the most prominent interfaith organizations on campus, generated such an uproar about Swain’s op-ed that it drew an administration response.

Dean of Students Mark Bandas emailed the student body to say that that Muslim students had told him they have “felt welcome and safe at Vanderbilt until you read this piece.” He assured them that the school’s “top priority” has not changed: “Ensuring that this campus is welcoming to, and supportive of, all of our students.”

At the same time, Bandas told students to use their freedom of expression to challenge “polarizing speech” and “engage in dialogue with … those with whom you disagree.”

According to Yamin, the student organizer and publicity chair for the Muslim Student Association, Bandas even volunteered to provide a sound system and setup crew for her protest.

But Yamin only met the dean halfway in his call to engage with her critics.

Inflated protest numbers 

swainprotest2.JRRidleyYamin told reporters after her speech that “I felt like I was in a cage” after reading Swain’s op-ed. “I thought if we as students don’t organize a protest against this speech, then there’s no way to ensure that more students won’t be attacked in the future.”

Though more than 800 Facebook users “confirmed” they would attend the protest – helped by a shout-out in the Vanderbilt Hustler – actual attendance was closer to the low hundreds: Yamin admitted to reporters that the “confirmed” number was inflated by her friends back home.

The turnout “shows me Vanderbilt’s commitment to justice and equality,” Yamin said.

Having taught at Vanderbilt since 1999, Swain is famous on campus for her ardent, outspoken conservatism.

She teaches one of the most conservative classes at Vanderbilt, hosts a weekly TV podcast that discusses issues including radical Islam and Al Sharpton’s involvement in Ferguson protests, and appears regularly on Fox News programs. Swain’s website describes her rise from “high school dropout and teenage mother” to “esteemed” law professor.

‘She can’t continue to say these kinds of things’ on ‘liberal’ campus

The overall tone of the protest, though passionate, did not attack Swain personally.

Yamin herself acknowledged after the event that Swain “has substance and that she is an educated woman” and has “a lot of qualifications to be teaching at Vanderbilt.”

But Swain’s speech must be curtailed, Yamin said: “What I’m really trying to show her is that she can’t continue to say these kinds of things on a campus that’s so liberal and diverse and tolerant” or “say bigoted things about her own students.”

FarishtayYamin.FacebookHow that will happen is unclear, because Yamin said she’s not seeking official sanctions against Swain.

Yamin questioned whether Swain even believes her op-ed. “Her mind can’t be changed,” she said, asked if she would meet with Swain. “I don’t think it’s truly hateful, I don’t know if she even has these views,” but Swain “used a platform of murdering people to gain publicity.”

Yamin’s confusion continued as she said her goal was to show campus officials “that students don’t tolerate hate speech, even though it’s protected under academic freedom, that we don’t allow that on this campus.

“There is no way the students here are going to allow further attacks on their own peers,” Yamin continued. “And if the university respects us as human beings, it has to come out and condemn these statements and promise us that it’s not going to happen again in the future.”

Nonreligious professor: Swain’s words ‘tool for many people who hate’

The protest itself was brief, about 10 minutes of speeches.

Computer science professor Doug Fisher preceded Yamin, saying that his “personal experience with people of Islam is that they are loving, gracious, peaceful, constructive, and honorable people.”

He accused Swain of “oversimplicity” in her characterization of Islam, saying that she herself is not a “simple story” but rather someone with nuanced views on “the negative impact of wealth disparity,” for example.

A nonreligious person, Fisher said: “I find it increasingly hurtful myself. I worry too that my colleague’s words would be a tool for many people who hate. Let’s try not to hate either, as we move forward.”

Yet Fisher told The Fix after his speech that Swain isn’t abusing her position as faculty by speaking against Islam, and that judging whether Swain should be punished is “above my pay grade.”

Many of the students in attendance had signs reading “Better a brat than a bigot” or “Free speech and hate are not synonyms.” Following the protest, many marched to Kirkland Hall, where the chancellor’s office resides, and laid their signs out on the steps leading into the hall.

Former SNL performer Jackson and a man playing a red, white, and blue guitar appeared to be the only counter-protesters at the event. She held a sign reading “Ban Sharia” in the midst of all the other signs.

College Fix reporter JR Ridley is a student at Vanderbilt University.

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IMAGES: Tim Pierce/Flickr, JR Ridley, Farishtay Yamin’s Facebook page

A crowd of Vanderbilt University students converged on campus over the weekend to protest a conservative black professor who they say is guilty of “hate speech” against Muslims.

Carol Swain, a law and political science professor at the private, Nashville-based university, was the target of a rally Saturday afternoon that aimed to condemn Swain’s arguments in a Jan. 15 op-ed in the Tennessean titled “Charlie Hebdo attacks prove critics were right about Islam.”

“More and more members of the PC crowd now acknowledge that Islam has absolutely nothing in common with Christianity, nor is it a worthy part of the brotherhood of man I long felt was characteristic of the Abrahamic religions,” Swain wrote. “A younger, more naive version of myself once believed in a world where the people of the Book could and would get along because they all claimed Abraham as their father. No more!”

“Civic education and other indicators of assimilation should be a prerequisite for remaining and advancing in this nation,” the scholar added. “… If Muslims are to thrive in America, and if we are to be safe, then we must have ground rules that protect the people from those who disdain the freedoms that most of the world covets.”

The column infuriated some of the campus community, especially its Muslim student population.

“This protest is about the fact that a member of Vanderbilt’s faculty attacked her own students, that a member of the faculty published hate speech against the very young adults that she seeks to inspire,” said the demonstration’s organizer Farishtay Yamin, reports the Tennessean. Yamin is listed as Vanderbilt’s Muslim Student Association publicity chair.

The Vanderbilt Hustler campus newspaper, which live Tweeted the demonstration, noted statements at the protest included: “To say that one student is not compatible with Western civilization is to say that the entire student body is not compatible,” “We have gathered here to make sure that no student is attacked by a faculty member again,” and “Vanderbilt united will never be divided.”

Signs students held included phrases such as “we stand against hate, we stand for speech” and “to reach peace, teach peace.”

Counter-demonstrators were anticipated at the rally, and in a somewhat surprising turn of events, former Saturday Night Live performer Victoria Jackson showed up with a “Ban Sharia” poster and yelled “Freedom of Speech” but the mic was off, the Tennessean reports, adding the crowd turned its back on her.

In a statement posted on her Facebook page Sunday, Swain acknowledged her controversial op-ed “could have been written with a milder tone.”

“I wrote the article immediately after the Charlie Hebdo massacre and it was published more than a week later,” Swain stated. “It was not directed at ‘peaceable’ Muslims.”

But Swain has also been steadfastly strong in the wake of the verbal assaults, taking to Facebook to post her thoughts and frustration over the situation.

“I’m wondering how Vanderbilt protesters can justify their silence when it comes to the greatest human rights tragedy in the world – the jihadic deaths of Christians, Buddhists and Hindus. What explains their silence?” she posted on Saturday.

And in other post she asked: “Why are today’s university students so fragile they need counseling and affirmation whenever they hear something that makes them uncomfortable? Learning how to deal with your emotions is part of growing up.”

In a Q&A between Swain and the Hustler published Sunday, the scholar also defended the right of academic freedom and free speech.

“I feel no special obligation to engage in politically correct speech,” Swain stated. “I think it is unfortunate that hate speech has become whatever makes a non-Christian uncomfortable. Professors should help their students learn to engage ideas. Any student who is threatened by a discussion of ideas cannot fully benefit from a liberal arts education. Any university that is afraid of ideas should close its doors.”

“Students who feel threatened by my speech can avoid exposure to my ideas. They have no obligation to listen to my speeches, read my blogs or take any of my courses. If a student takes one of my courses, then he or she has entered a political correctness free zone tolerant of divergent views.”

Meanwhile, in a statement to students, Associate Provost and Dean of Students Mark Bandas reminded students of various counseling and psychological services on campus should they need it because of the controversy.

And in a statement published Sunday, Vanderbilt’s Muslim Student Association said they “forgive” Swain.

“We would like to emphasize that although Professor Swain has allowed the actions of a few individuals manipulating religion to shape her views of an entire faith that makes up 23 percent of the world population,” the group stated, “we will not allow her views as a Vanderbilt affiliate to shape our views of Vanderbilt.”

RELATED: Muslim student plays the race card against conservative black professor at Vanderbilt

Jennifer Kabbany is editor of The College Fix (@JenniferKabbany)

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IMAGE: Carol Swain’s Facebook page

The campus protest against Vanderbilt University law professor Carol Swain is in full swing this afternoon (follow the Hustler‘s Twitter feed for updates) but the outrage over her op-ed against Islam continues today in print.

Zoha Malik, an international student from Pakistan, wrote a letter to the dean – published in the Hustler – that strongly suggests she wants the university to punish “such open hate speech” as Swain’s.

Malik takes Swain’s op-ed – which calls for “serious monitoring of Islamic organizations,” civic education for Muslims and recognition of “the dangers of the burka” – as a personal attack, and says that Swain as a black woman should know better:

I have been taught my entire life to be loving, caring, tolerant, patient and kind — never to harm anyone or anything. …

It is then, deeply saddening for me to see a woman, who herself belongs to a widely misjudged minority, fail to acknowledge the Muslim minority in this country. …

Am I a threat to you and your children? What makes me a threat? The fact that I am nice and welcoming and understanding of all people? Or the fact that I have never done anyone wrong? Or the fact that my close friend group consists of Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Jews and atheists?

The student implies that Swain’s speech is just as bad as the acts of Muslim terrorists, saying both have made Malik “depressed” recently:

But if there persists such open hate speech in this university, I fear Vanderbilt’s constant efforts to be diverse and a second home to its students will be futile.

Read the full letter.

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IMAGE: Carol Swain’s Facebook page

Vanderbilt law professor Carol Swain, well-known to College Fix readers, has provoked the ire of Vanderbilt students enough to draw her own protest.

As a result of Swain’s op-ed in the Tennessean titled “Charlie Hebdo attacks proved critics were right about Islam,” a Muslim student has planned a protest for Saturday afternoon, the Vanderbilt Hustler reports:

“How could such an educated, informed woman, a professor at Vanderbilt in charge of educating our youth, publish such ignorance?” [Farishtay] Yamin said. “It’s hard for me to describe how much pain I felt reading an article written by a Vanderbilt professor who, before meeting me, considers me to be a threat to Western society.” …

In response to Swain’s editorial, Yamin set up a an event on Facebook for a “Campus-Wide Protest Against Hate Speech Published in the Tennessean.” The protest is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 17 at 1 p.m. on Library Lawn. It will consist of chants and a short speech. Students will gather at 12:30 p.m. at the Anchor to make signs. Students are encouraged to bring supplies.

Swain wrote on her Facebook page Friday that “there are some hysterical Vandy students on campus this morning.” She said a Muslim Student Association rep wants a meeting “to discuss my disgusting op-ed. I am suggesting a campus-wide debate.”

Read the Hustler story.

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IMAGE: Carol Swain’s Facebook page