Campus Reform | University 'First Amendment Support Team' suspended after complaints from BLM chapter

University 'First Amendment Support Team' suspended after complaints from BLM chapter

A First Amendment Support Team at SUNY New Paltz was suspended after being accused of serving "to perpetuate the violence of anti-Black racism."

The group's purpose is to ensure there is no violence during on-campus protests.

The State University of New York New Paltz suspended a group on campus that aimed to keep protests peaceful and free of violence after pressure from the university’s Black Lives Matter chapter.

According to The New Paltz Oracle, the First Amendment Support Team (FAST) was designed to ensure that protests are not violating any laws, was protested by the school’s local BLM chapter. 

The chapter claimed in a petition that FAST “will serve to perpetuate the violence of anti-Black racism on the campus of SUNY New Paltz.”

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Their concern sprung from a portion of the FAST’s website section on “Problematically Disruptive Protests.” Protests would be classified as such if there was a “threat of physical harm to persons,” or “Protestors entering any private office without permission,” or even the, “Significant disruption of the normal operations of the University.” If any of these conditions existed, then the school had a list of actions that could be taken. 

These actions range from informing building occupants about the protest, advising people to “close/lock office doors,” and to “contact The Vice President for Student Affairs Office.” The BLM group complained that one of the possible options in the list, in case of imminent danger was calling the police.

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“We write to express our firm belief that this is not—and cannot be—an anti-racist initiative. We have deep concerns that the formation, selection process, purpose, and implementation of FAST will uphold white supremacy, white patriarchal paternalism, and white fragility on the SUNY New Paltz campus,” the petition read.

The chapter called for the immediate suspension of FAST, that non-administrative BIPOC be asked for input on any further plans, and “funds allocated to UPD be re-allocated to anti-racist efforts and to programs and departments that benefit BIPOC students.” They also give push for more money for “mental health counselors trained in dealing with racial trauma.”

According to the school newspaper, the university suspended the entire First Amendment Support Team, and said that they could have done a better job expressing the purpose of the group.

“In hindsight, we could have done a better job of consulting the campus community more broadly to help further our positive intentions and lessen the unintended impact,” the President of SUNY New Paltz Donald P. Christian wrote in a letter to the group on Sept. 15. “We are suspending the FAST initiative until we are able to speak with you and better understand possible common ground in providing such a resource to protect those who wish to exercise their free speech rights.” 

A spokesperson for the university confirmed that they suspended the program when reached by Campus Reform.

George Dent, Professor Emeritus of Law at Case Western Reserve, told Campus Reform that this was emblematic of modern colleges. He called them “echo chambers” that amplify any pre-existing view, explaining that it's a "long-standing belief on the left" that police are "rougher" with African Americans. 

"Put that belief into the echo chamber that prevails on most campuses and you soon get to the belief that the police are always evil. Therefore, some students at the school you mention fiercely opposed any resort to the police," he said.