The social aspect of a public campus

“If you don’t hate abortion you are just as bad as the people who flew planes into the twin towers on 9/11 because God hates abortion.”

This is a controversial sentence that was actually said by a member of a Christian organization in front of the fountain by the campus center on the 11th anniversary of 9/11. This group, which refused to reveal any information about themselves such as names and location, had to schedule an appointment through the University in order to show up on campus because our campus is public. Theoretically any group can come on campus and say whatever they want, whether they are preaching about Jesus, raising environmental awareness or even if they are just shouting nonsense. This is the power of being a public university which ultimately has a lot of pros and cons.

“So the reason that we are here today is to tell you the truth and those who hear, who God has given ears to hear, will hear the truth,” a member of the Christian group shouted to the students, who unfortunately at this point were way to angry to respond positively at anything.

“Why would you do this on today of all days,” one female student shouted loudly at the Christian group. “Today is a day where we should honor those who passed away during 9/11 not have people judging our actions.” Amid the large gathering of people who was hard to figure who exactly was shouting what.

In the midst of the chaos a girl in the crowd began to get very emotional. After she took a step back and composed herself she gave a heartfelt testimonial as to why she was offended by this group.

“The guy comes in my face with an abortion sign and I’ve had an abortion before so I started getting emotional,” Alessandra DeCarlo, a junior at U Albany said. “I think they should believe what they believe in but I think it’s wrong to stand in front of people, when you don’t know where people come from.”

“Either your sins have been paid for or you will be in hell for your sins,” one of the Christian group members continued as the crowd berated the group with several chants and songs. At one point during this event a “this is our house” chant erupted from the group of students. This chant, as empowering it may seem to the students, is factually inaccurate because as a public campus this is as much that groups house as it is our own. “If you are a born again Christian then your sins have been paid for,” he reiterated.

“Are you a born again?” the one man continued. “Have you been covered by the blood of Jesus.”

Amidst the crowd of roughly 30 college students and five members of this born again Christian group a sundry of events take place. The Christian group calls the University Police Department to remove a male student from the protest because he was staring directly in front of the main speaker of the Christian group and was shaking violently and intimidatingly, unfortunately I was not able to get his name because UPD was taking care of the situation. Two girls, acting solely to anger the Christian group, began what can only be described as a five minute make out session in front of everyone as a form of protest against homophobia. Perhaps one of the most impressive demonstrations was done by marriage equality activist and University at Albany student Eddie Alkurabi.

As someone who is bisexual I am a huge supporter for marriage equality,” Eddie Alkurabi said. “When I see people like this I feel it is my duty to respond.”

As a group of people held a gay pride flag as a background, almost as if anticipating Eddie’s speech, Eddie Alkurabi delivered a passionate speech where he would say a group of words and have the crowd repeat them after him.

Eddie interacting with the c

Eddie Alkurabie interacting with the crowd

  “I am Somebody ,I demand Full Equality, Right Here, Right Now,” Eddie said as the crowd chanted along after him.

The students were very unruly toward the Christian group in their actions. They held up various inappropriate signs that belittled the born again Christian groups both theologically and personally. They had many inappropriate chants and sang many songs to counter act them such as “We are the World” and “Na na na na na na na na Hey hey hey, Good bye” in an attempt to remove these people from what they feel is their campus. That is why this event perfectly demonstrates the possibilities that our campus has versus a private campus. Because the University of Albany is a public campus the University has to allow any group on campus, provided they don’t physically harm students. Private institutions have the right to decline any group they want but our campus can’t do that. Some people view this as a bad thing but Mike Hartman, a junior here at U Albany sees this as a wonderful thing.

“I feel like it adds to the environment,” said Mike Hartman, whose friends refer to him as the mayor of U Albany because he knows a lot of people on campus. “I have seen some funny things and some funny people on campus and I feel like it adds to the charm of our campus.”

This perspective he has not only applies to events like the one described in this paper about the born again Christian group or really any public entity that appears on campus.

“Having a public campus is like any other place in the country, you can go anywhere and you can say anything and that is part of our rights as being American citizens,” Hartman continued. “The thing is that people are gonna say ridiculous things no matter what you say and yelling at them wont make any difference, in fact yelling at them would give them credit that they have an important opinion.”

Even though Hartman agrees with a lot of what the crowd said that day to the Christian group he does not feel that the students who were a part of that group took action in the appropriate way.

“If some assholes come on campus you don’t want to put too much emphasis on booing them out because that will give them too much credibility,” Hartman said “But if you totally ignore them then they get to say whatever they want so you have to find a balance between approaching these people in a respectful way but also accepting that they can say whatever they want. You may not agree with it but you don’t have to take it home to you and teach it to your kids.”

Mike truly makes a valid point when talking about how our campus is public. By having a public campus we are exposed to a plethora of different groups with lots of different agendas, whether we deem them morally acceptable or not, and when it comes down to us it is up to as an individual to make an independent decision as to whether or not the words you heard while walking to class or the demonstrations you saw on the podium are something you want to live by or if it is something you simply wish to pass off.

“And then the Flying Spaghetti Monster said let there be light,” a student said who was standing next to the born again Christian’s main speaker, attempting to make satire of what the group was here for by reading from the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (which yes, is actually a real thing)

The church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

The church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

As a public university there are many pros to going to U Albany versus going to a private institution. We, as a student body, have a lower tuition rate because the school is funded publicly by the State government. The tuition here at the University for the 2012-2013 academic year is $5,570 for in state students and $13,380 according to the University at Albany website. This when put into comparison to our neighbors at Saint Rose who pay $25,722 a year for tuition, more than the combined tuition of a SUNY Albany in state and out of state resident.

Even though the idea of carrying offensive signs and talking about abortion and homosexuality on 9/11 is probably not the greatest of ideas, it was a pivotal moment this semester in the fact that it helped students acknowledge exactly what being on a public campus can lead to. The uniformity of the students as a collective body, whether right or not, was an inspiring thing to watch as they stood up for what they believed in. Moments like this where people can come together, whether it was the born again Christian group or the students opposing them, to debate and express their beliefs in a public setting is what adds to the beauty of being a public institution. The biggest benefit about being a public campus is that we, as a student body, can exercise our speech and our ideas to people and we can have any speech or idea emphasized to us. The best way to describe the atmosphere on our campus in uncensored because whether you like an idea or not censorship does not destroy an idea. U Albany being a public campus is not only economically beneficial but socially and academically beneficial to the student population.

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