Former Miss Ohio USA, OSU law student threatened over pro-life op-ed

Madison Gesiotto, an Ohio State University law student and Washington Times columnist, claims school administrators reacted to her report of online harassment with only a halfhearted investigation, focusing most of their attention on critiquing her opinion column.

“Name calling and bullying have become central tactics in the growing campaign on the left to silence speech on college campuses across this country,” Gesiotto told Campus Reform. “Instead of arguing on merits, those whose beliefs are in line with the ‘settled’ liberal worldview attempt to delegitimize conservatives by branding them as racists, bigots, and misogynists.”

The saga began with a column Gesiotto wrote for The Washington Times on October 23 in which she cites statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control to make the argument that abortion destroys more black lives annually than heart disease, cancer, homicide, and motor vehicle accidents combined.

Although Gesiotto maintains that she expected to encounter a certain degree of pushback from her law school classmates over the column, she was nonetheless alarmed when one of them sent her a message on Facebook with the ominous message, “The government cannot take action against you for your offensive and racist article. But your colleagues can.”

“I know and have always known the name of the person who posted the ambiguous threat,” Gesiotto said, explaining that she immediately checked the person’s profile and confirmed that the unnamed individual is a white female classmate of hers at OSU’s Moritz School of Law.

Gesiotto promptly reported the threat to school administrators, who she expected would “investigate the reported threat to determine what type of ‘action’ the woman was referring to and to ensure that I was not in danger.”

Instead of the cursory meeting to explore her claim that she had anticipated, however, Gesiotto claims that she was treated to an hour-long harangue from three administrators who were evidently more interested in critiquing her op-ed than in ensuring her safety.

“They took issue with the piece as a whole, one Dean claiming that it looks like a direct attack on Black Lives Matter, which was not referenced or referred to at all in the column,” she told Campus Reform. “They clearly seemed more concerned about the school's relationship with the Black Lives Matters lobbying group than my personal safety or respecting the constitutional freedom lawyers are sworn to uphold.

“They kept saying that it was flawed writing that would offend many and was nowhere near a well-developed legal piece,” she added, noting that one Dean became especially fixated with the last line of her column—in which she opines that “America needs to wake up and recognize that abortion is taking the lives of way too many black Americans and more must be done to avoid high rates of abortion within America’s minority populations”—stressing his belief that the sentence is flawed because it can be interpreted in a variety of ways.

The next day, Gesiotto says one of the administrators contacted her to report that she had spoken with members of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA), and was “satisfied from those discussions that there was not an intent to threaten you with physical harm.”

Gesiotto wasn’t particularly comforted by the school’s apparently cursory investigation of the threat, considering that she had never mentioned the BLSA in her report, and that the individual who made the threat wasn’t even black, but says the administration has taken no further steps to address the issue since then.

Dean Alan Michaels of the Moritz Law School told The Washington Times that while he is not at liberty to discuss specific cases, the university “takes any alleged threat against its students very seriously.”

“An inclusive learning environment that provides a forum for a wide range of viewpoints is crucial for a law school,” he added. “We try to foster a culture of respectful dialogue when addressing tough, emotional topics as they arise in discussions of law and policy.”

Gesiotto countered that, based on her own experience at least, “it does not seem as if Moritz is truly interested in providing ‘a forum for a wide range of viewpoints’ or ‘respectful dialogue’.

“I would consider the dialogue engaged in thus far to be abusive and very far from respectful,” she clarified. “I do not at all feel comfortable expressing my conservative views at Moritz without fear of abuse or retaliation by the administration and students.”

At least one organization is coming to her defense, though, with Ohio Right to Life announcing Wednesday that it had requested a meeting with OSU officials to discuss their handling of Gesiotto’s harassment claims.

“Any threats made to students should be taken seriously, not callously tossed aside,” said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life. “In an age when academia boasts 'inclusion' and 'diversity,' the school's admonishment of Madison's beliefs rather than of those who seek to exclude her is hypocritical and perilous to the practice of First Amendment rights on campus.”

The group does not outline any specific objectives for the meeting, saying merely that its leaders wish to “discuss how students' rights can be secured on campus” independently of political considerations.

“Regardless of what a student believes, a taxpayer-funded institution like Ohio State must prioritize her right to express herself,” Gonidakis declared. “These recent events should concern every parent and every OSU student who wants an education that fosters diversity in belief.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @FrickePete