Student gov wants to impeach fellow member for daring to defend Blue Lives Matter face mask

Student government members at Rochester Institute of Technology are pushing to impeach a fellow member after he defended a Blue Lives Matter face mask in an online group chat.

This is just the latest example of student leaders facing impeachment because of their conservative beliefs.

A petition, signed by 21 student government members at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York looks to impeach student government member Jacob Custer after he defended wearing a Thin Blue Line mask, which shows support for the Blue Lives Matter movement. 

In the petition against Custer, students cited actions outside of the senate conversation. The petition said that Custer had “negative attitudes towards members, blatant disregard of the effects of controversial topics such as Blue Lives Matter and how it affects the Black and Brown community, and blatant disregard for anyone’s views.”

The petition to impeach Custer presented evidence from a group conversation in which student government members discussed filing a bias report over an RIT public safety officer wearing a “thin blue line” mask -- which signals support for the Blue Lives Matter movement -- according to screenshots presented in the petition against Custer. 

The screenshots of the chat highlight the student government members’ willingness to use other governing bodies to ban the masks. 

One member added, “I was thinking we could either go the way of starting with a statement opposing the masks and then seeing if we could wrangle the other governing bodies in as well until RIT can’t ignore it.” 

Another member said, “I’m not against applying pressure, so I would support that idea” in reference to the suggestion of strongarming other governing bodies into the ban of the blue line mask. 

Custer jumped in against banning the blue line mask, saying “just simply because you (and others) are moving a point of view that you may disagree with into a category to suppress that idea is not virtuous or being on a higher moral ground. It is rather showing intolerance to other views other than your own.”

Other student government member in the chat disagreed, saying that his ideas should not be protected: “I think pretty much everyone here would agree that not literally everything should be protected under free speech.” 

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Another member said “This is hate speech,” regarding Custer’s opposition to banning the blue line mask for public safety officers. Adding, “Blue lives matter was constructed as a counter to the black lives matter movement.”

In an interview with Campus Reform, Custer expressed that this situation is troublesome. When asked about how he hoped the administration would respond, he said, “the administration should remain strong and emphasize the core values of diversity and inclusion on different ideas, backgrounds, and personalities,” adding that the university needs to “protect the freedom of speech of students, staff, and its community.” 

The administration did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.

A counter-petition against Custer’s impeachment, titled “Do Not Impeach Jacob Custer,”  highlights Rochester Institute of Technology’s policy on diversity and free speech

“Open, civil discussions of key issues in the right venue without mischaracterization is important to many. If these discussions are not allowed to happen, we will not solve the issues in question, nor will anyone’s minds be changed. The recent movements to strip certain groups of students of their positions they qualify for because of what they say outside their roles on their own accord is very troubling.”

Dylan Green, the author of the counter-petition, further expressed his concerns in an interview with Campus Reform, saying “conservatives are not just being punished for expressing their reasonable viewpoints outside the university, but that they are being slandered.”

The counter-petition gathered 207 signatures, well over the 200 signatures needed for it to be brought before the student government. Green said that he was proud of that achievement, adding that many of the signatures were gathered in a matter of days. 

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Green ended with an encouraging statement to students: “I would encourage all students to defend their peers when they try to be silenced, especially if they are being slandered by the public. Even if they don’t agree with your worldview and aren’t a public figure, free speech is something we all take for granted sometimes.”

Student government members were asked to comment for this article but did not respond in time for publication. One declined to comment.

Follow the author of this article: Alyssa Rinelli