On Monday night, at the MSE John Kasich event, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) members were handing out flyers with information about Kasich’s policies and inviting people to an event Voice for Choice was hosting about abortion rights after the speech.
Throughout the night, our presence was clearly not welcome, even though MSE has a policy of welcoming dissent. MSE staff told two of our members to leave Hodson, a campus cop who was informed about our presence by MSE staff shadowed two SDS members, a staffer demanded to know whether we were planning on disrupting the event, and, disturbingly, MSE staff informed Maryland State Troopers that we were “against Kasich,” which escalated the tension to a height that our behavior did not warrant.
The most egregious event of the night (beside Kasich’s speech) was when Miranda Bachman and Will Kirsch were standing by the stairwell, politely handing out flyers, and a Maryland State Trooper approached them. The trooper threatened Will and Miranda with arrest if they did not move. Miranda asked him why they were being told to move, and the trooper said that they were blocking the elevator and the stairs, even though they were twenty feet from the elevator and well out of the way of people on the stairs. Miranda asked the state trooper repeatedly which law(s) they were breaking, but the trooper refused to answer and continued to make threats.
The mission statement of MSE says that they “earned a reputation as a forum for the free exchange of ideas.” In The News-Letter’s October 5 article, “Women’s March activists kick off MSE Symposium,” Programming Chair Rachel Biderman said, “the purpose of the symposium is to serve as a platform for free speech, where people with different perspectives can express themselves in a productive, thought-provoking manner.”Clearly, MSE does not seem to uphold their alleged values when Hopkins students attempt to peacefully hand out flyers - with no intention of disrupting the event. We were not trying to stop the event from occurring; we strongly encouraged our members to join the question-and-answer session with Kasich.
Harassment of students on campus property is a threat to a free exchange of ideas. MSE staff should be ashamed of putting their fellow students in harm’s way. Interestingly, even though MSE claims to welcome dissent, they were quick to sic the police on SDS members, even though the police are historically known for stifling freedom of speech and the freedom to protest.
Mira Wattal and Emeline Armitage