In a series of social media posts on Feb. 3, the Frances Beal Society leaked audio recordings and text messages that appear to show members of Binghamton University’s Turning Point USA (TPUSA), including their president Lacey Kestecher, a freshman majoring in business administration, making threatening remarks toward students and student groups.
In the recording, which was reportedly taken on Nov. 21, 2019, members of TPUSA, College Republicans and the Binghamton Review discussed ideas for future events which included purposefully provoking responses from other students, according to the Frances Beal Society, a grassroots organization composed of students and community members dedicated to fighting oppression and liberating marginalized groups. TPUSA members also reportedly threatened to sue Binghamton University’s Student Association (SA) to secure funding for their organization in leaked text messages.
“We have a plan — go to the SA, try and get chartered, get denied and then open up a lawsuit against [BU] for freedom of speech,” the text reads.
The leak of the recording comes after two protests erupted on campus last semester. The first demonstration occurred after BU’s TPUSA and College Republicans displayed pro-gun signage during an unofficial tabling event. Days later, when the same two groups hosted economist Arthur Laffer for a speaking event, another protest formed, resulting in Laffer being escorted out of the Lecture Hall by police.
In their Twitter and Instagram posts, the Frances Beal Society wrote that TPUSA, College Republicans and the Binghamton Review “broadcast inflammatory and bigoted rhetoric, record the backlash and post it online for attention, funding and to expose protesters to harassment online.” While discussing what their next event would be, one recorded voice, which the Frances Beal Society said is Kestecher, is heard saying, “We got to just keep it going. Honestly, I’m having too much fun.”
Other unidentified voices in the recording are also heard discussing the protesters and backlash against specific student groups. Pipe Dream cannot independently confirm the claims made by Frances Beal Society regarding who is speaking in the recording.
One voice is heard yelling, “Scorched earth! Kill them! Get them!” The other students then join in by repeating, “Scorched earth.”
While discussing how to provoke other students, the voice said to be Kestecher is heard saying, “Honestly, if they jump me, big money,” after proposing the idea of wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat around campus. “Big money,” according to Frances Beal Society, is referring to TPUSA receiving donations after gaining public attention.
Videos of the first protest in November did reach a mass audience, collecting hundreds of thousands of views online. According to the Frances Beal Society, multiple protesters and students of color received threats from strangers as a result of the videos. The videos eventually led to President Donald Trump commending BU’s chapter of TPUSA at a national TPUSA event and bringing Kestecher to the stage to let her speak.
At the beginning of her speech, Kestecher said, ” … What [the protesters] didn’t know about me is that I do jiujitsu … ” The voice said to be Kestecher in the recording makes a similar remark, stating, “I have my jiujitsu” while discussing the potential of provoking students.
Kestecher denied responsibility for remarks made in both the recording and the text messages.
Emma Ross, SA president and a senior double-majoring in political science and psychology, said if groups applying for charter follow the SA’s policies, they will be chartered. Nevertheless, she said the application process is not a simple one.
“I am hopeful that students would not put the necessary time and energy into the chartering process if their goal was to be denied,” Ross said. “Having gone through and overseen the chartering process myself, it is not something to be taken lightly, but it is designed to help students succeed.”
The recording cuts off midway through the conversation, and the Frances Beal Society writes that the rest of it contains explicit threats directed toward specific students. The Frances Beal Society declined to share the remainder of the recording because of safety concerns for those named.
“The general trend has been that the people harassed have been women of color on this campus and that the threats and harassment have all been racist in nature, as well as some that are misogynistic,” a representative of Frances Beal Society wrote in an email.
Binghamton’s New York State University Police (UPD) said they did not receive any formal complaints of threats or harassment from students as a result of the protests or recording. The Frances Beal Society said students didn’t trust UPD enough to make official reports.
“We can also say that the threats we’ve been notified about were not reported to the University, UPD or [Binghamton Police Department],” the representative wrote. “The majority of them had absolutely no faith in the University to handle these threats, especially regarding the racial aspect behind them.”
University officials could not be reached for comment.