It seems that whenever university student activists protest the politically “right” thing, even crossing a line while doing so, they can count on like-minded professors to take their side … and help get them out of hot water.
Recently, some students at the University of Arizona confronted members of the United States Border Patrol who were on campus as part of a job fair and to speak to the (student) Criminal Justice Organization. One of the students, Denisse Moreno Melchor, filmed herself crashing the CJO event, calling the BP agents “murderers,” the “KKK,” and informing a member of the CJO that she will keep chanting what she’s been saying “the entire fucking time” because “it’s the truth.”
In a school-wide email, UA President Robert Robbins said two of the protesting students would face misdemeanor criminal charges, as well as possible student code of conduct violations. (A third student was charged on Thursday.) Regarding the former, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education responded that “First Amendment jurisprudence recognizes that freedom of expression requires ‘breathing room,’” and that “filing criminal charges against students for campus speech that may be protected by the First Amendment will chill protected student speech.”
I largely agree with FIRE. Anyone going to a college campus to speak has to be prepared for those who may not like him and/or what he has to say, which may include yelling and screaming.
The main issue with Melchor et. al. comes with their disruption of the CJO discussion. You can’t argue you’re just engaging in freedom of speech if your speech is inhibiting that very right in others … especially at an organized, formal event. Based on the video evidence thus far available, it does appear criminal charges may be an extreme penalty, but code of conduct violations for disrupting the COJ talk appear reasonable.
Nevertheless, a group of over 70 University of Arizona professors called “Professors of Color” feel differently. They believe the accused students should face no consequences whatsoever:
We ask that you, in your role as President, end the investigations and harassment of the students by demanding that UAPD Chief, Brian Seastone, drop the charges against them. We also implore you to ask the the Dean of Students to support rather than investigate the two students. Rather than looking into potential violations of the University’s Student Code of Conduct, the Dean of Students should be protecting these two students by investigating the death threats against them and by taking steps to prioritize their safety and ability to continue their studies.
Indeed, as other progressive academics have argued, the Professors of Color say that because “far-right extremist [and biased] media” (uncertain if this includes The College Fix) have covered this story, they’re somehow responsible for the various idiots who feel the need to send out death threats. These threats should be investigated, and not the students who confronted the Border Patrol, they say.
It seems it wasn’t just the students who faced criticism and threats. The Arizona Republic reports the UA Mexican-American Studies Department evacuated its building Thursday due to an alleged shooting threat which, ultimately, was deemed “not credible”:
The social media posts in question show numerous heated comments against the students and the Mexican American Studies department. A screenshot of the post was shared with The Republic.
One comment says “radicals” are teaching students at universities how to become activists.
“Believe it or not, there is an Army of so-called social justice warriors itching for a fight. But they will certainly run and cower like children when the shooting starts in their direction. And it will happen…only question is WHEN?” the post read.
Melchor is a Mexican-American Studies major.
The Professors of Color argue that, in the whole scheme of things, groups like the Border Patrol are responsible for (death) threats because their appearance on campus is “provoking.” The profs suggest the university take advantage of its teleconferencing technology if students or organizations want to interact with the Border Patrol in the future.
I seriously doubt these academics would deem such an arrangement acceptable if they wanted a group to come to campus …
UPDATE: The full name of the UA student who filmed the encounter with the Border Patrol was added, as well as a link to a story indicating that a third student had been charged in the case.