College drops disciplinary charges against conservative student
Siena College has dropped charges against a student who posted hundreds of flyers to raise awareness of the hostility conservatives face from professors.
Zachary Butler, a junior studying political science, told Campus Reform last week that he posted roughly 600 flyers depicting an email exchange in which a Siena College professor called conservative students “miserable” to work with.
"My intentions were never to harm anyone. I simply wanted attention brought to a serious issue."
As Campus Reform reported, Professor Jenn McErlean sent an email on March 20 announcing that she quit her school’s committee on civil discourse because the thought of working with conservative students was “making me miserable.”
Though Butler was not involved in the initial email exchange, he told Campus Reform that he was deeply dismayed by the school’s lack of reaction to it. To him, the email was symbolic of the overarching climate of hostility towards conservatives on campus, and he wanted to help fix it.
“So in order to keep the dialogue going, I took it upon myself—with the help of a friend—to post 600 co pies of that email all over campus,” Butler said, adding that all 600 flyers were posted overnight on March 22.
Though he was initially charged with violating the school flyering policy and negatively impacting the “health, welfare, and/or safety” of the school community, his April 10 meeting with the school conduct officer—a few days after Campus Reform’s initial story on the issue—revealed that both charges had been dropped.
Just a few days after the disciplinary meeting, Butler told Campus Reform that it was “ridiculous” that he was charged with negatively impacting the “health, welfare and/or safety” of the campus simply by posting flyers.
“It is mind boggling to me how my posting of the email was any more damaging to the name of the school and welfare of the community than the content of the email itself,” Butler said.
It is unclear why the school pressed that charge against him in the first place. Butler said he inquired about it during the disciplinary meeting, but didn’t receive a clear response.
Siena College also declined to answer any questions from Campus Reform about the charge, citing FERPA, a federal privacy law that protects the information of students over 18.
“My intentions were never to harm anyone. I simply wanted attention brought to a serious issue,” Butler explained. “If there is anything I learned from this experience it is that if you truly want to be heard, you have to be loud. Actions speak speak louder than words.”
Though he still wants the administration to formally address the comments made by Professor McErlean, Butler said that he’s happy to see that conversation about the issue has “really picked up” on campus,” adding that students have actually started having conversations in class and online about it.
“As I write this conservative students are being unfairly graded, stifled in the classroom, and discriminated against for their political views,” Butler claimed, adding that he’s since heard similar concerns not just from conservatives, but from students of other backgrounds, too.
“My eyes have been opened to concerns of students of all political and cultural backgrounds. Any concern of any student at this college deserves equal consideration and respect and I plan on bringing all of these to the attention of the administration,” he said of his future plans.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen