Vassar Offers ‘Safe Room’ to Students Afraid of Cornell Law Professor Lecture on Hate Speech

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Vassar College students “were whipped into a frenzy” ahead of a speech given on campus this week by Cornell Law School professor William A. Jacobson on the topic of hate speech on college campuses.

Cornell Law School Professor and noted securities arbitration scholar William A. Jacobson was on the receiving end of a smear campaign shortly after the Vassar Conservative Libertarian Union announced their intention to host Jacobson on campus for a lecture entitled “‘Hate Speech’ is Still Free Speech, Even After Charlottesville.”

“Hundreds of students, faculty and staff on campus were whipped into a frenzy by false and malicious accusations, originating it appears with a student group Healing 2 Action, but also spread by the Vassar Student Association,” Jacobson wrote in a blog post on Thursday. “In addition to maligning me personally, accusations were spread falsely claiming White Nationalist supporters might come to campus to target students of color, LGBT students, Jewish students and others.”

Initially, the Vassar Student Association agreed to sponsor the event. After students whipped themselves into a frenzy over Jacobson’s scheduled lecture, the student association pulled their sponsorship of the event. In addition, the Executive Board of the Vassar Student Association published a statement demanded that Vassar College President Elizabeth Bradley cancel Jacobson’s lecture on the basis that the college should not provide platform’s for “hate.”

…. We strongly urge you, on account of students undergoing serious and real pain, to take our words and ideas seriously, and work towards breaching the contract, ultimately preventing him from coming to campus on Wednesday. On account of the timeframe under which we are operating, we urge the College to undertake speedy and urgent action, as outlined in the beginning of this communication, for the wellbeing of our community. We also urge you to denounce the sentiments and ideologies underlying these types of events, instrumentalizing the language of“free speech” to allow a platform for hate .

We urge you to think critically about these things. Rather than just engaging the abstract, we urge you to understand how these ideas have physical implications for the safety and well-being of real students on this campus . Ideas are not merely esoteric concepts; they have historically (and presently) been used to silence and justify extreme violence. William Jacobson’s rhetoric and worldview is an illustrative example of where we locate this violence; this is not “free speech.” This is sanctioned violence hiding behind the veneer of liberalism.

Jacobson alleges that the hysteria was drummed up by a campus group called “Healing 2 Action.” The group created a Facebook event that detailed the group’s strategy for coping with Jacobson’s presence on campus. A safe space room was set up with “coloring books, zine kits, markers, and construction paper” for students who wanted to escape:

TODAY the lecture formerly titled “Hate Speech is Still Free Speech Even After Charlottesville,” will take place in Rocky 300 at 7pm.

There will be many different ways to heal. Above all, we want to prioritize SAFETY.

H2A does not endorse attendance of this event, but for those who do choose to attend it is essential that safety is prioritized and attendees be mindful of engaging with the speaker in a way that does not put Black, brown, Jewish, queer and trans bodies at risk.

Healing to Action does not endorse violent acts of protest.

[***-***-****}]: Includes non-emergency security, counselor on call, and student van drivers if you need to get off campus
[***-***-****}]: Emergency — includes EMS

1. Rocky 304 will function as a safety room if you choose to leave the lecture. There will be a designated student in the room both during and after the lecture.
2. Sit with people who you feel comfortable around.
3. Sit starting from the back seats on either side of the room, filling towards the front without leaving empty seats. This will concentrate non-students towards the front/center and allow students access to the exits.
4. White nationalists are manipulative. While it’s normal to have an emotional response, don’t let yourself be baited; they want to incite “fragile liberals.”
5. Wear all black for solidarity.
6. Know that if you choose to attend, there is the possibility of those in the audience filming and taking photograph
7. If you’re going into the space and you have privilege (i.e. white people), you have a responsibility to look out for and support those who are targets of violence, (i.e. Black, brown, Jewish, queer and trans folk) since Jacobson is not trying to have a dialogue but instead is intentionally using loaded language to rile up students.

6:30 pm: Lobby: Join us for food & button-making, and each other’s company.
Atrium: Devoted to Programming/Collaborative Art
Library will provide coloring books, zine kits, markers, construction paper etc. Please bring supplies, if you have them.
Space for testimonials/oral art to be shared.
Dialogue led by staff, faculty, and admin.
7:00pm: Meditation Circle by Office of Religious Student Life in Quiet Room (3rd Floor)

Safe(r) spaces will be occupied by designated Vassar students with glowsticks. Please come to any of these spaces or people if you feel unsafe.
Stationed at: Library, Strong 1st floor, Raymond 1st floor, ALANA Center, North Lot area, Quad, Bayit, Rocky 304.

Drink water. Sleep 7-9 hours. Eat when you’re hungry. Shower. Remember to take your medicine if you need it. Your health comes before deadlines! Reach out to people to get what you need.

Take self-care moments to recenter yourself. If it helps, breathe for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds. Repeat until calm(er).

**We are acting to protect marginalized identities put in the most danger. This includes Jewish people, Black and Brown people, Queer and Trans folk.**




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