SECOND VIDEO: Yale, Cornell, and Syracuse administrators destroy ‘oppressive’ Constitution

Peter Fricke
Managing Editor

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  • Administrators at Yale, Cornell, and Syracuse Universities join their colleagues from Vassar in ripping up the Constitution in response to a fake student's complaints.
  • UPDATE: A statement from Cornell University has been added
  • In a sequel to the outrageous Project Veritas video, originally reported by Campus Reform Tuesday, administrators at Cornell, Syracuse, and Yale Universities join their colleagues from Vassar in ripping up the Constitution in response to a fake student's complaints.

    The first video depicted two different administrators at Vassar agreeing to shred a copy of the Constitution in an effort to soothe the feelings of a "student" (actually a Project Veritas reporter) who claimed to have been deeply upset and offended when she was offered a free copy by a group on campus.

    "I just see this as such an oppressive document that I was completely shocked to see it on campus."   

    In the second video, officials at Cornell, Syracuse, and Yale all offer similar responses, though several of them, lacking access to a shredder, had to tear or cut the document instead. Like the first, it is filmed in the undercover style made famous by the 2009 ACORN videos produced by James O'Keefe, who is also Project Veritas' founder.

    "Let me find out what the policies are, on distribution of materials, propaganda," Yale Director of Academic Integrity Programs and Senior Deputy Title 1X Coordinator Jason Killheffer told the reporter during an outdoor meeting at a sidewalk cafe after she had related her dismay at finding a stack of pocket Constitutions lying around in her dorm building, one of which she had brought with her as evidence.

    "If your freedom of expression impacts other people’s ability to engage actively in the community, to engage in their education or really take full advantage of everything that the university has to offer, then that’s when things cross that line," he explained, but stopped short of endorsing the reporter's proposal to ban the Constitution entirely, saying, "if this document exists in the library, it is not in your face.

    "If you choose to go look at it, then that’s your choice," he continued. "But when it is being dropped presumably in a public space, where people are likely to come up on it ... then maybe that's the difference."

    Killheffer nonchalantly complies when the reporter subsequently requests that he destroy the copy of the Constitution she had with her as a "therapeutic" exercise—a pattern that was repeated by administrators to whom the same reporter told a similar story at both Cornell and Syracuse.

    At those schools, the reporter claimed to have been "triggered" and "haunted" by the experience of seeing pocket Constitutions being distributed on campus.

    "It triggered me, and I have been dealing with it ever since, of why it would be on campus," the reporter laments to Sheila Johnson-Willis, Interim Chief of Equal Opportunity and Title IX Officer at Syracuse. "I just see this as such an oppressive document that I was completely shocked to see it on campus."

    The reporter proceeds to produce printouts of school policies, saying, "I believe that handing out the Constitution on campus completely violates, you know, the discrimination and ... bias policy, considering this document, you know, discriminates [against] women ... [and] people of color."

    As Johnson-Willis nods along noncommittally, the reporter goes on to say, "I saw Syracuse as a place that really, you know, wanted to be inclusive ... and cared about other students and not discriminating ... is that true, like, do they really care?"

    "Yes, yes," Johnson-Willis responds, almost as if eager for the chance to break out of her somnolence. "I would say that we definitely care."

    When the reporter asks her if there is a way to get rid of the copy she had brought with her, Johnson-Willis assures her that there is, but requests that she be allowed to first take a picture of it. As she methodically cuts the document apart with a pair of scissors, Johnson-Willis makes sure that the symbolic action is enough to soothe the distraught "student," offering to provide additional counseling if necessary, though the reporter demurs at the suggestion, saying it had given her "peace of mind" to witness the destruction.

    Next, the video segues to Cornell, where the reporter gives Lead Title IX Investigator Elizabeth McGrath the same sob story she had related at Syracuse, embellishing that the experience was very "triggering" for her.

    "Well, I think that the Constitution means things to different people; like you said it is a flawed document and the people who wrote it are certainly flawed individuals in my mind," McGrath told her. "My personal feeling—and everybody’s entitled to their opinion—is that the people in the Supreme Court who wrote it against the same sex marriage were, you know, really out of their minds," she added, explaining that she knows they are smart people, and therefore struggles to understand why they would hold such views.

    McGrath nonetheless stood up, however meekly, in defense of the right to distribute the Constitution on campus, saying, "handing it out on campus, I think, is a way for everybody to sort of see how to choose to interpret it," adding, "you know people can interpret it and fight against it however they want to, and I certainly think that Cornell supports you and however you want to go about that and to express your own viewpoints."

    When the reporter remarks that having the copy that she had brought along with her "has been really hard," McGrath offers to hold on to it for her, prompting the reporter to ask, with some fanfare and great trepidation, whether there is "any way that maybe, like, we can get rid of it somehow" as a therapeutic measure.

    "Absolutely," McGrath replies conspiratorially, getting up to look for a shredder. "Yeah, free speech means freedom to destroy whatever you want to, as well," she declared while prepping the Constitution for shredding.

    Throughout the video, whenever a school employee appears on screen, the logo of their university is displayed in the corner, directly above the name and contact information for the school's President or Chancellor; a subtle call for those who are outraged by the film to share their feelings directly with the institutions involved.

    And for comic relief, James O'Keefe repeats his cameo as a dancing Constitution, offering commentary on the reporter's interactions with the administrators and generating a number of amusing interactions himself as he engages with passing students.

    Campus Reform reached out to all the individuals portrayed in the videos, as well as to their respective institutions, and will update this story if and when any statements are received.

    UPDATE: Cornell University Vice President for Media Relations Joel Malina provided the following statement, which is also available on the school's website:

    "The Project Veritas video released today would have you believe an employee was helping a student make a political statement by denigrating the U.S. Constitution. In fact, the video shows a 'reporter' misrepresented herself as a student with a mental health crisis. Under the guise of addressing her mental health issues, the 'student' asked the employee to help her shred the document she brought with her that was the apparent source of her anguish. Whatever personal views she may have shared in order to connect with a 'student' who appeared to be in crisis, as an employee of Cornell University she was appropriately focused on addressing the apparently urgent need of the person before her and not on any larger political context."

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    Peter Fricke

    Peter Fricke

    Managing Editor

    Peter Fricke is the Managing Editor for Campus Reform. He has previously worked on state and national political campaigns, and was a reporter for The Daily Caller News Foundation.

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