Lecture sparks student protest
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 12:09
Brockport is a quiet village on the Erie Canal, largely free of big city Rochester’s news cameras, notebooks and questioning journalists.
Not last week.
News of Tucker Max coming to Brockport and the ensuing controversy among students, including three women hanging signs in the Union urging students to boycott the lecture, prompted 13 WHAM to make a trip out Wednesday, Sept. 19 for a reported protest.
News Channel 10’s Ray Levato and James Goodman of the Democrat and Chronicle followed suit Thursday.
Channel 10 and the D&C were at the campus primarily to cover Diversity Day and keynote speaker Arsalan Iftikhar. They also made sure to interview Brockport Student Government (BSG) President Samantha Wheeler about the brewing Max drama.
Max, a best-selling author in the “fratire” genre, was confirmed as the fall lecturer the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 18. Rumors had been swirling for weeks, but with the official announcement students took to Facebook and Twitter to voice their dissent.
That night, seniors Carrie Hellwig, Nicole Bootby and Kellie Engelmeier hung fliers in the Union, many with inappropriate language from Max’s books, in an attempt to stage a boycott of the lecture. Union managers and employees worked quickly to take them down.
Union employees said the fliers were approved Thursday, Sept. 20 for posting. The Union only approves four total posters to be placed on whatever bulletin the person wants.
As of Monday, Sept. 24, only one poster could be found in the Union, located near the Women’s Center. Union employees said they don’t take them down, but other people could have.
Rumors of a protest to be held when tickets went on sale Wednesday morning prompted 13 WHAM to come see what was going on. There was no protest, but other news outlets followed suit.
Wheeler, taking most of the heat for booking such a controversial speaker, said she was fine with all of the publicity and media outlets around last week.
“We haven’t had, from either side, too much bad publicity,” Wheeler said. “Alumni are now a little bit more aware of what’s going on.”
Vice President Brian Witmer said the reporters seemed more curious than anything, asking about the structure of BSG, the budget and how Wheeler and Witmer were elected.
While Wheeler and Witmer were making TV appearances, students in opposition to the lecture were meeting to talk about how they were going to protest. The three students who hung fliers said a protest will definitely happen the night of the event with multiple organizations involved. The women stressed that none of the organizations are giving money or sponsoring anything.
The Oct. 2 lecture is the day before two major events. Wednesday, Oct. 3 is Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, an annual event held to encourage men to take a stand against rape, sexual assault and violence. Wheeler and Witmer said they will be participating.
Wednesday night, activist Shelby Knox will be speaking in the Union ballroom. Knox, a feminist and public speaker, is nationally-known for her documentary The Education of Shelby Knox. The film documents her teenage activism for comprehensive sex-education and gay rights.
Wheeler said even with all the media attention and upset students, she isn’t wavering on the decision BSG made.
“I don’t at this point regret it,” she said. “It started a conversation on campus. Students are talking and communicating and talking about what’s appropriate for a college campus and what’s not.”
Approximately 81 tickets were sold the first day. As of Monday, Sept. 24, four business days after ticket sales went live, 250 tickets of the 1,500 available had been sold.
A majority of students who have talked to The Stylus or voiced opinions on social media sites said Max “teaches men how to behave” and creates an environment in which these people are personally hurt and disturbed.
Leah Sawyer wrote in a message on BSG’s Facebook: Imagine the horror that these women [who have been sexually assaulted or raped] feel when they hear that their college brought a man here to laugh at the trauma they went through, the trauma that they’ll never get over. You probably justify this by saying that it’s just meant to be funny, but studies show that more an idea is presented the more it is accepted.”
Wheeler and Witmer had little to say in response.
“I think it’s a really personal question because what offends one person might not offend another,” Wheeler said. “Obviously we’re not in the business of trying to upset students. We’re here to represent the students and that’s what we really try to do.”
Wheeler and Witmer said they are open to hearing the opinion of any students, noting they’re in the BSG offices in the Union from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.