Cops investigating as Stanley says ‘Violent threats... are not protected by freedom of speech’
OSWEGO — A student organization at SUNY Oswego was the target of violent social media threats this week after advocating on campus for President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall and college officials say police are investigating.
The Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chapter at SUNY Oswego expressed their support for the border security plan on Tuesday by staffing a table at the Marano Campus Center and passing out handouts with information and facts on border security, according to group chair Tyler Toomey.
The YAF public presence was met with a scathing social media response that included threats of political violence via Twitter and Facebook.
Following up on those threats, Toomey said that the organization already took action by reporting the incident to campus police.
“We’ve been in contact with university police,” Toomey said. “We met with them and gave them everything they’d asked for to look into this and we hope that they can look into it and hope they do whatever they deem necessary to hold these people accountable.”
The YAF Twitter account was the target of numerous violent messages on Tuesday after posting a picture of three members at the Marano Campus Center table.
One Twitter user said the YAF members pictured would be “getting… those bullets” and on Facebook, a man said he would “grease them myself” while another told the YAF to “count your days.”
SUNY Oswego President Deborah Stanley said in a statement Wednesday that university police requested information from the social media sites and is currently monitoring the situation.
“Violent threats will not be tolerated and are not protected by freedom of speech,” Stanley said. “We will pursue offenders as soon as we become aware of threats of violence or other criminal acts.”
Stanley added that the university intends to welcome civil discourse and diverse opinions.
“Please know we will continue to encourage all members of our campus community to embrace diversity in all its forms—diversity of people, thought and expression,” Stanley said. “And, we will remain vigilant about safety, encouraging anyone who feels unsafe or threatened to let us know.”
The New York Federation of College Republicans (NYFCR) said in a statement that the threats have recently escalated and called for immediate action on measures of retaliation, asking for the university to “immediately expel” students who posted the threats online.
“We want to be able to express how we feel about certain situations whether you are a Republican or a Democrat or Conservative or Liberal, we embrace all sides of the argument, but attacking people’s personal character and how they look is not okay just because they believe in a certain way,” NYFCR Executive Director Brian Herman said
Herman explained that because the organization deals with students, the process always involves college resources first.
“We go through the school first since we are a college organization and we give the chapter the chance to take care of a situation themselves,” Herman said. “If no action is taken, then we try to see if we can send out petitions and condemnations of the situation, and other than that just protecting the chapter itself public relations-wise.
Herman added that when it comes to legal affairs, students tend to seek private alternatives on an individual basis.
“We partner with (national conservative publication) Campus Reform and they have official offices around the state,” Herman said. “We reach out to them and they try to guide us through the situation. Not that we can’t handle it, but they have more resources in the area of free speech, where we are more of a non-profit political organization that specifically focuses on republican values.”
When it comes to diversity of student body and ideologies, SUNY Oswego officials Wednesday afternoon told the Palladium-Times that the university will continue to hold comprehensive town halls on subjects of diversity and will attempt to “bring in students who are involved or directly affected to guide them in the dialogue for a greater understanding.”