A group of students who posted controversial flyers in the Binghamton University Downtown Center on Wednesday morning say Binghamton’s New York State University Police (UPD) threatened to arrest a member of their group for unlawful posting.
Two people who helped post the flyers said an officer spoke with one person involved in the demonstration and advised them that police would be investigating the incident.
The flyers, which were posted around 7:30 a.m., highlight several recent controversial incidents at Binghamton University, including one over an offensive email written by engineering professor Viktor Skormin, and another regarding an article published by the Binghamton Review, the University’s student-run conservative monthly publication. They also criticized University President Harvey Stenger and College of Community and Public Affairs Dean Laura Bronstein’s for what they said were the University’s inadequate responses to the incidents.
According to one source, in a meeting with several human development students before “BU Students Speak Out Against Racism,” an event hosted by students from the BU College of Community and Public Affairs to address racist incidents on campus, Bronstein interrupted a student of color to ask how they felt silenced, referencing the Multicultural Resource Center and the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion as examples of students’ voices being heard.
One source said incidents like this, along with the racist drawings found in Newing College last fall, served as a catalyst for the flyers. The source said the group of students responsible for the posters hoped to publicize these incidents and convince faculty and students, particularly those majoring in human development, to take action.
“A lot of our posters used stuff that happened earlier this year, like the drawings in Newing [College],” the source said. “We used the recent Binghamton Review article, and we could’ve used a lot more that were awful, but we decided to just use the one that was relevant right now, and we just went after two people in the administration — not went after, really, but just said ‘You aren’t doing enough to acknowledge racism on campus.’ None of the posters are threatening, none of them are direct threats to people’s safety.”
Investigator Patrick Reilly of UPD said because flyers were found on display cases and in bathrooms around the building, the students were in violation of the University Posting Policy, which states that students may distribute papers by hand or post flyers, however, the posters must be posted on established bulletin boards. The policy also states that students may only post one poster per bulletin board. Additionally, Reilly said the students were violating New York state laws regarding unlawful posting.
“University rules say that you cannot post in certain places, so they were in violation of University rules of posting,” Reilly said. “There’s certain places you can post stuff, but when you post over 200 flyers to get your word across and they are all over the bathrooms and in the hallways, then you violate laws for unlawful posting. One individual was talked to, and it was explained that whatever he was trying to put out, whatever his message is, that’s not our concern. What we care about is that they are posting all over the place, and that’s a violation of the law and of the student handbook.”
However, according to one source, they did not break state law because the penal code only applies to advertisements.
“All we did was print out a bunch of flyers,” the source said. “They said they had grounds to arrest us for flyering, that it was a violation of a penal code. We looked into it, but we were not advertising anything, so the penal code is out the window. The way they responded to this issue blows my mind, because it shows you how this can happen in the one school that’s devoted to social justice.”
The source also said police continued to approach the students after they switched to handing out the flyers, rather than hanging them.
“We just started actually handing out the flyers to people to continue the conversation and told them they could talk about it in their classrooms,” the source said. “Still, police were following us and coming out to talk to us, and I feel like it was way excessive for what was actually happening.”
Currently, no students have been arrested in connection with the posters, however, UPD says the case is still being investigated.