Text of Jennie Chenkin Email to UMass-Amherst Officials
My name is Jennie Chenkin. I am a Hampshire College junior on a pre-law track with a concentration in political theory, carceral studies, and conflict resolution. I am writing this email because I have been harassed mercilessly online following “The Triggering” event and I have reason to believe that UMass Republicans have endorsed this harassment and libel against me.
On Monday night, I attended the event “The Triggering” hosted by UMass Republicans in protest of the panelists they had chosen to bring in to speak on “social justice, feminism, trigger warnings, microaggressions, and more.” My friends and I held up a banner outside the venue that said “content warning: bigotry inside” and we passed out fliers which explained what we believe political correctness stands for. When the panelists came on stage, we booed and heckled and disrupted, because that was what we were there to do. We wanted to send a message that even if the majority of the room agreed with what was being said, there were people in the community who adamantly disagreed, and that we were also allowed to make our voices heard under free speech laws. We wanted to send a message that harmful opinions like the ones held and endorsed by the panelists are not welcome at UMass or in the Five College community. While I frankly found the event absolutely reprehensible, it proceeded without extraordinary incident. I even stuck around outside for two hours after the event conversing with different-minded individuals about our beliefs. These actual conversations were civil and very gratifying. Despite residual frustration with some of the comments made by the panelists, I left UMass feeling like I had indeed been able to understand some of the opinions espoused at the event.
On Tuesday morning, I awoke to a notification from Facebook, indicating someone had tagged me in a comment on the event page for “The Triggering.” Someone by the name of Clarence Emerson (who I later learned is actually Aidan Kearney, a UMass alum, sexual predator, and professional bully) had tagged me in his comment with this article attached, referring to me in the comment as “little boy.”
As you can see by reading the blog post, it contains libellous language against me and screenshots of comments I posted on the event page for “The Triggering”. I have been advised by my attorney that both the harassment and the use of my comments are illegal — the use of my comments being an infringement of copyright law as outlined by Facebook, where individuals hold copyright law over everything they post, even comments posted on public pages. Legalities aside, I have now been put in personal danger because Aidan Kearney has demonized me and posted my personal information on a public website which caters to anti-social justice people who hate me and people like me. Aidan Kearney has taken it upon himself to publish two more articles about me, each getting progressively more aggressive in content. Most recently, he has made a post about me being arrested in my home state several months ago. Though I take full responsibility for engaging in the action which led to my arrest, this is something I have been very ashamed of and embarrassed about, and until this point I have kept it a very private matter for that reason. I no longer have that luxury and I am worried that this string of harassing and revealing blog posts about me may prevent me from getting a summer job, which I desperately need in order to be able to pay for the last year of my undergraduate education before I go to law school.
I understand that the individual who published this blog post no longer attends UMass and has no affiliation with the institution at this time aside from being an alum. However, UMass Republicans approved the publicizing of the first libelous blog post about me on the event page for “The Triggering” shortly after I was tagged in the comment (see attached screenshot). The fact that UMass Republicans published this blog post on “The Triggering” event page tells me that they condone this type of cyberbullying and that they think my public humiliation and harassment is funny and/or trivial. I assure you it is neither of these things. As I understand it, by publishing the link to the blog post with my information on it, UMass Republicans have endorsed the libel on the blog post and have potentially encouraged others to engage in similar behavior. I don’t need to simply make interpretations and assumptions, though. Nick Pappas, UMass Republican representative, has confirmed my suspicions (see attached screenshots).
The endorsement of and participation in harassment by member of UMass Republicans is not news to me. The majority of the posts and comments on the event page for “The Triggering” contain similarly harassing, libelous, and abusive content towards people who have expressed distaste for the panelists or the event. While I understand and respect the legal right to free speech and expression as protected by the United States Constitution and UMass’s own pluralism policy, I do not believe much of the content on this event page is protected under the pluralism policy, as it is largely blatantly disrespectful, racist, sexist, islamophobic, transphobic, and queerphobic. Considering many UMass Amherst students (both affiliated and unaffiliated with UMass Republicans) have made harassing comments on “The Triggering” event page, I request an investigation into the conduct of UMass Amherst students on the page. Additionally, I demand consideration be taken to the fact that UMass Republicans allowed harassment and cyberbullying to occur on a page they managed. This concludes my first concern.
As for my second set of concerns: when I first drafted this email, only the one article about me had been published on the turtleboysports website, which I again acknowledge has no affiliation with UMass and is not under UMass jurisdiction. A few hours later, another blog post had been made about me on the site. A few hours after that, a video featuring my friend — taken and published illegally by Mount Holyoke sophomore and Campus Reform representative Kassy Dillon, who is also being investigated for misconduct during and after the event — was published on Youtube and shared widely throughout the conservative web. This video has been viewed in the hundreds of thousands and has been shared on Twitter by the panelists themselves. It was featured on Fox News. The blog post about my arrest followed and then another blog post, revealing the identity of my friend in the video.
On Monday night, UMass Republicans asked their audience to be open to different opinions in the name of free speech. They then allowed their panelists to call Muslims rapists and dissenters in the audience, such as myself, pussies. They allowed their panelists to harass students on stage. The panelists got applauded and paid to do so. This makes me seriously wonder what kind of ship UMass Republicans run and why UMass has allowed them to get away with this atrocious behavior. I wonder why UMass Republicans care so much about protecting free speech, but only when it aligns with their views — and when it doesn’t, I wonder why they think it’s okay to publicly harass and bully and humiliate dissenters such as myself. All of these concerns taken together tell me that “The Triggering” event wasn’t actually about free speech. It was about the promotion of harassment and hatred.
UMass recently condemned anti-semitic and anti-Muslim graffiti on campus as “hate speech” under the policy against intolerance. While I again emphasize that I understand and respect the federal right to free speech and UMass’s pluralism policy which protects free expression on the campus, I am angered and confused as to how UMass has not similarly condemned any comments made by the panelists featured on Monday night or the harassment of protesters, like myself, that has ensued. Perhaps I am misinformed or am not fully understanding UMass policies, and if this is the case, I would like clarification. But as far as I can tell, the failure of UMass to condemn the hate speech that was featured on the campus, hosted by the institution, and FUNDED THROUGH THE SCHOOL indicates that UMass only cares about hate speech sometimes and will at other times covertly endorse hate speech and harassment on campus and beyond.
On Monday night, when panelist Steven Crowder was asked by an audience member at what point hate speech crosses the line, Crowder responded with “When does free speech become hate speech? Yeah, that’s a silly question, hate speech is a figment of your imagination. If someone says something you don’t like you don’t get to call it hate speech.” Except Crowder also says Islamophobia — that is, the irrational fear and demonization of Islam and all Muslim people — is rational and justified. Is that not hate speech? Did UMass and UMass Republicans not host an event which put money in the pockets of individuals who endorse hate speech? Did UMass not allow UMass Republicans to host an event they knew would garner such a dramatic response? Was the money used to pay the panelists not from members of the student body who the panelists actively hate and demonize? Why couldn’t UMass Republicans at least be honest about their prerogatives in hosting the event? Perhaps because those motivations were less than noble.
In a statement given to a Five College student who will remain anonymous for their safety, UMass Republicans representative Nick Pappas stated that the group invited Milo Yiannopoulos as “a funny provocateur to the college left”. In his opening statement on Monday night, Milo said “feminism is cancer”. I ask Nick Pappas, Kyle Boyd (President of UMass Republicans), the rest of the UMass Republicans student group, the UMass administration, and the UMass student body, how is this funny? And how is this not creating animosity and discrimination on UMass Amherst campus towards feminists and other groups who were demonized on Monday? There is a way to go about critiquing feminism that does not equate feminism to a deadly disease or foster hatred towards feminists. There is a way to go about critiquing Islam, or any other religion, without equating all members of the religion to terrorists. Almost every person of color in the audience last night walked out of the room because they felt unsafe. As a white woman, I felt unsafe. There is a way to create open, respectful dialogues on college campuses between people who have differing views. Last night’s event was none of these things. I ask UMass administration and UMass Republicans, how is the public harassment and bullying of your students and Five College students okay? Is that funny to you too? Because now my personal safety and the safety of other Five College students has been put in jeopardy. Is my personal safety a joke to you? Is my personal safety and the safety of individuals on your campus (and beyond) less important to you than the freedom to publicly humiliate people, as supposedly protected by free speech? I ask you, UMass and UMass Republicans, why are you endorsing and condoning harassment? Why are you putting me and others in danger? This is not funny and it is not a joke and I demand action be taken to remedy this situation and prevent anything like this from ever happening again.
I demand appropriate disciplinary action be taken against UMass Republicans. I request they be met with and lectured on cyberbullying and harassment. I request they be indicted into a probationary period and their actions monitored so as to ensure they are not endorsing behavior which puts other people in danger. I request an apology from UMass Republicans for condoning the harassment I and countless others have been subjected to as a result of their atrocious event on Monday. I expect a response from UMass representatives regarding the condoning of harassment, cyberbullying, and hate speech on the part of UMass Republicans and the UMass institution which hosted their event. I will wait until 10 AM on Friday, April 29, and if I do not receive a response by then, I will escalate my demands and will go to the press about this situation. I have already been approached by a representative of widely popular Vice News to speak about this incident and I am more than happy to do so if I find it necessary to get my voice heard.
I do not want to be contacted by anyone from UMass Republicans at this time. I do not give my consent for anything in this email to be republished, quoted, or otherwise disclosed in any manner unless I indicate otherwise upon being asked. I do not give anyone permission to forward this email without asking me first. Before brushing my demands off as extreme or an overreaction, consider that my personal safety has been jeopardized by individuals within your student body. I do not take harassment and intimidation of this caliber lightly. I have been unable to sleep or eat since Tuesday morning. I have three finals I still need to complete, and instead I now must spend hours on the phone with my attorney, drafting email after email to get my concerns heard. UMass Republicans have said that words are just words, and I ask them now, do they stand by that statement? Because the words at their event — and words that they themselves have spoken — have led others to believe that it is okay to harass and bully individuals in the way I and others have been bullied in the past two days. I demand, UMass, that you consider what kind of event you allowed on your campus on Monday night, what kind of behavior was endorsed, and what kind of messages you are sending to students of different races, ethnicities, gender identities, sexualities, etc., all the things you claim to protect the free expression of when you simultaneously covertly endorse harassment and hate speech.