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Clemson school admins used COVID caps and fake RSVPs to suppress turnout at conservative event

‘That plainly undermines the university’s commitment to freedom of expression,’ says FIRE

During the height of the pandemic, two college administrators from Clemson University used phony ticket reservations to suppress attendance at a conservative student event and bragged about it on Facebook.

The conservative group Turning Point USA’s local chapter hosted speakers Tomi Lahren, Brandon Tatum, and Graham Allen for an event on the South Carolina campus in April 2020.

The event was limited in capacity because of COVID-19, and people had to reserve tickets from a smaller pool in advance.

Clemson administrators Amy Burke and Sharetta Bufford bragged about using that limited capacity to stuff the admission box with phony reservations, the Young America’s Foundation revealed in late June.

Financial aid counselor Burke wrote, “i’ve reserved my two. and then two for pippi. and two for my work email. and two for my business account. i just realized i have plans though, dang it…” on Facebook, in a post that has appears to have been either purged or protected.

In comments, Bufford, who serves as assistant director of recruitment and inclusive excellence, said, “I just reserved 10. I JUST might show up to see what all the fuss is about!”

Bufford signaled what the Young America’s Foundation characterized as sarcasm by following the comment with a meme of Late Night Jimmy Fallon saying “MAAAAAAAYBE,” with a mischievous look on his face.

An unexpected outcome? MAAAAAAAYBE!

Clemson University, Amy Burke, and Sharetta Bufford have ignored The College Fix’s multiple emails and calls for comment.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education condemned the incident.

“If university staff members were submitting false reservations for seats in order to prevent others from attending the event that plainly undermines the university’s commitment to freedom of expression, which includes not just a right to speak but a right to hear the speech of others,” said FIRE’s Director of Individual Rights Defense Program Adam Steinbaugh in an email to The College Fix.

Steinbaugh noted that it was not the first time such tactics had been used. He added that it’s typically “not a productive form of opposing speech, since it’s easily deterred by cancelling bogus reservations or allowing others to attend on a standby line.”

Clemson’s Turning Point chapter president Taylor Rogers also condemned the incident, but she hinted at a possible good outcome.

“This is a perfect example of leftist indoctrination on campus, faculty and staff pushing their leftist ideas upon the university and its students,” Rogers said in an email to The College Fix.

But she also said that “Clemson University administration is handl[ing] this situation” internally, and added she is grateful that Clemson, “continuously stick[s] up for free speech for both left and right winged students.”

MORE: Clemson Democrats trying to ban Fox News personality Tomi Lahren from campus

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About the Author
Jordan Noah -- Claremont McKenna College