Get ye to a safe space, because I have something to tell you. A conservative spoke at Vassar on Wednesday. That's it, really, but it was enough to send the students into precautionary meltdowns. The speaker in question was one William Jacobson, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Securities Law Clinic at Cornell Law School. His speech, "An Examination of Hate Speech and Free Speech on College Campuses," caused some on campus, apparently a student organization called Healing 2 Action, to create a boogeyman version of Professor Jacobson, the specter of which, actual Professor Jacobson wrote, had "Hundreds of students, faculty and staff on campus...whipped into a frenzy by false and malicious accusations."
The Vassar Students Association (VSA) withdrew their sponsorship (and, as of yet, their portion of Jacobson's fee) and their board tried to get the college's president to cancel his appearance. They wrote her a letter suggesting she find a way to breach their contract with him.
…. 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.
The VSA Executive Board
Healing 2 Action was prepared for Professor Jacobson's appearance, depending on what one's version of "prepared" is:
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
SAFETY INFO IF YOU’RE ATTENDING THE LECTURE (6:30pm-9pm)
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.
LIBRARY INTENTIONAL SPACE (6:30pm-9pm)
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)
INFO ABOUT STUDENT SAFETY TEAMS (6:00-9:00pm)
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.**
What in the world? Even if these weren't ridiculous ways to prepare for a perceived threat, Professor Jacobson is by no means an extremist and has spoken at Vassar before, only three years ago. Like that event, this one was completely uneventful. Jacobson spoke, there was a Q&A session, and everyone got home safely. It's only the campus environment that has changed, one that assumes any right-of-center speaker is going to leave mayhem in his wake and plans accordingly. With coloring books.