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University Officials Issue Statements Regarding Mass Email About Controversial October 24 Event

Penn State University Police and Public Safety and Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims issued separate statements Thursday evening surrounding a mass email sent by an unrecognized group regarding a controversial event occurring on campus on Monday, October 24.

The mass email called on students and community members to participate in a protest opposing recognized student organization Uncensored America’s hosting of the founder of the Proud Boys on campus, an organization named by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.

The email also discouraged participation in the university’s “Together We Are” event, calling it a “cover-up event.”

The University Police and Public Safety’s statement stated that the email provided “inaccurate, false, and potentially harmful information” and urged students and members of the community to avoid the event.

“University Police and Public Safety strongly recommends that community members avoid the event, as non-engagement in these types of situations where the speakers attempt to create outrage is a proven method for tamping down the confrontations, as well as the attention these individuals crave,” the statement read.

“Many of the provocateurs who gain a platform for their denigrating rhetoric have their causes amplified by angry protests from those in our community who deplore their behavior and speech. These angry clashes only serve to advance the goals of these individuals and the vile ideas they represent. Provocateurs love nothing more than to fill a room with protesters and record it as content for their online platforms. As a community, we should not advance their purposes.”

The statement continued, stating that safety is a top priority and that University Police will be on-site at the event as a safety precaution and in case of a disruption.

The statement mentioned that University Police is working with local law enforcement and is prepared to take “every reasonable action to protect the safety of our campus.”

Vice President of Student Affairs Damon Sims issued a separate statement later through an email sent Thursday night, urging students not to attend the event.

“Many of you received a mass email earlier today encouraging direct confrontation with two controversial speakers who have been invited to campus on Monday by a recognized student organization and discouraging your participation in a community-building event at the same time in the HUB,” Sims wrote. “I implore you not to take the bait.”

Sims’ statement continued, stating that the university condemns the speakers of the Uncensored America event, however, cannot stop the event, as public universities are obligated under the First Amendment to allow speakers when invited by faculty or recognized organizations, even if offensive to others.

“But neither can we sit idly by while provocateurs opposed to these speakers encourage you to act in ways that may increase risk to yourselves and our community,” Sims wrote. “The Student Committee for Defense and Solidarity, which claims credit for today’s email, is irresponsibly inviting confrontation. I strongly encourage you not to follow their lead.”

Sims’ statement encouraged students to attend SPA’s “Together We Are” community event at 6 p.m. on Monday, October 24, in the HUB.

“Those who are experts in hate groups tell us time and time again that engaging them is the wrong response. Doing so merely amplifies their hate. It feeds their angry purpose,” Sims wrote.

You can read the full statement from Sims below.

Dear Students—

Many of you received a mass email earlier today encouraging direct confrontation with two controversial speakers who have been invited to campus on Monday by a recognized student organization and discouraging your participation in a community-building event at the same time in the HUB.  I implore you not to take the bait. 

The student organization Uncensored America is hosting a presentation on Monday by two individuals, one of whom is the founder of the Proud Boys.  The University does not endorse this event and strongly and unquestionably rejects the hateful rhetoric for which these speakers have been responsible.  

But the fundamental freedom of thought and expression protected by the First Amendment obligates a public university to allow even speakers with whom it most strongly disagrees, when those speakers are invited by the faculty or a recognized student organization.  We cannot stop Monday’s planned event simply because we, many of you, and others find these speakers deeply offensive.

But neither can we sit idly while provocateurs opposed to these speakers encourage you to act in ways that may increase risk to yourselves and our community.  The Student Committee for Defense and Solidarity, which claims credit for today’s email, is irresponsibly inviting confrontation.  I strongly encourage you not to follow their lead.  

Instead, attend the Student Programming Association’s Together We Are event in the HUB on Monday evening.  That event will be an expression of true solidarity and an ideal way for all of us to defend ourselves and our community against the divisiveness that otherwise threatens to overwhelm our better natures. 

Those who are expert in hate groups tell us time and again that engaging them is the wrong response.  Doing so merely amplifies their hate.  It feeds their angry purpose.  

Instead, come together as one community, in celebration of what bonds us—care and consideration for one another and the collective strength to resist the easy and pointless temptation to strike back.

Sincerely,

Damon Sims

Vice President for Student Affairs

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About the Author

Anna Wiggins

Anna is a junior public relations major and one of Onward State's social media editors. Hailing from Washington D.C. (aka Alexandria, VA), she loves 80's and 90's rock, fashion, spending money, Snoopy, and was born in a pink hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @annaewiggins. Please send all of your best gossip to [email protected]

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