With the impending Freedom of Association: The Coalition for Truth (F.A.C.T.) rally causing a buzz on campus, The Maroon-News sat down with F.A.C.T. president senior Sean Devlin for an exclusive interview regarding Tuesday’s rally, the website, www.colgate-fact.org, and the organization as a whole.
Maroon-News: What do you hope to accomplish at Tuesday’s rally?Sean Devlin (SD): I hope to bring the whole student body together, for the students to rally together for a cause that really affects them. It affects every student on this campus. If one group of students does not have its [First Amendment] rights respected by the administration, all bets are off. Any student group could be sanctioned.M-N: Do you feel that the administration will apply these rules, which have been applied to Greek organizations, to other groups?SD: I think it’s a possibility. Once they open up that gate, who knows? If you and I want to start a group and it doesn’t fit their vision, they can just threaten us with expulsion, and we would have no say in it. When I came to Colgate, I was issued a handbook and it said that our civil rights would be respected. Now, they are changing their minds on that.M-N: What type of response are you looking for from students?SD: The response that we’ve gotten from the students already has been amazing. The students understand that these issues are important. Students recognize the way that the University has manipulated and taken advantage of this situation.M-N: These events correspond with April Visit Days. Is that just a coincidence, or do you want to reach out to prospective students?SD: A lot of people have asked me that, and they feel like I am harming Colgate. I love Colgate. As chairperson of the Senior Class Gift Committee, I have worked tirelessly in raising $25,000 for the Senior Class Gift. But I think it’s important that prospective students understand what kind of environment they’re coming into. It’s not this cookie-cutter image that the University gives off to incoming students. It’s important for students to understand that when you come here, your First Amendment rights are not going to be respected. And that’s an important issue for students who are making that decision. That’s $40,000 a year expecting your First Amendment rights to be respected and finding that they’re not going to be respected.M-N: Who will be the speakers at the rally?SD: David Horowitz and David French, the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (F.I.R.E.).M-N: Why were these speakers chosen?SD: These men have been have been active civil rights activists for their entire lives. We’re talking about First Amendment rights at the rally.M-N: Horowitz has been brought to campus before, and his speech, while powerful, was controversial and offended some. Do you worry that these same students who were offended when Horowitz first came to campus will not support your cause?SD: If they do come to the rally – and we hope all students come to the rally – I think they will hear Horowitz pretty much focus on the issues of First Amendment rights. It’s something that he’s fought tirelessly for, for every American citizen, no matter your color or sexual orientation.M-N: Your website has gotten an incredible number of hits in its first several days of existence. To what do you credit this?SD: Tireless efforts from the group in getting the word out. We’ve been blanketing the campus with fliers and [have just had] conversations with people. Some people are oblivious to what has been going on. You have a one-on-one conversation with them, and they start to understand, so they say, “Yeah, sign me up.”M-N: I’ve noticed that some of the signs you have made have been torn down. Would you care to comment?SD: If you want to put a message out there, that’s great, but don’t tear ours down. It’s amazing how many signs get torn down on this campus. It’s upsetting. It’s a sad campus culture where people who just don’t agree with it, just tear it down. If you have a problem with it, write an article, write an editorial. Organize your own group. Protest it that way.M-N: Do you have any idea who would have ripped your signs down?SD: It was probably somebody, or a group of people, who, for whatever reason, hate fraternities and sororities. They are blinded by their hatred for fraternities and sororities, so they equate F.A.C.T. with fraternities and sororities. When F.A.C.T. in reality is really an issue for all students to save their First Amendment rights.M-N: So, you would say that your main goal is to protect First Amendment rights as opposed too the rights of fraternities and sororities.SD: Yes. We’re trying to protect the rights for each group. It’s interesting that somebody sent me an e-mail asking me how far F.A.C.T. would go. The e-mail asked if we would we support the advocacy of a Ku Klux Klan here at Colgate? And I said, “Listen, supporting First Amendment rights is different that supporting how people use those rights.” We would support their right to assemble but publicly denounce their cause.M-N: Many people feel like your website shares an ideology with www.sz4c.com. How is www.colgate-fact.org different?SD: In addition to focusing on First Amendment issues, sa4c also focuses on the Core Curriculum, intellectual diversity, general diversity on campus and other hot-bed issues that some students are turned away from. A lot of the student response was negative; they didn’t want to touch it. But with F.A.C.T., we say “First Amendment rights freedom of assembly, property rights, that’s what we’re about.”M-N: Your website has a direct link to the U.S. Constitution and makes numerous references to the Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment. Do you feel, like in any way, shape or form, that Constitutional rights should be different for students at a private University as opposed to a public University?SD: The importance of student’s First Amendment rights has been recognized at universities across this great nation of ours. Congress passed and Bill Clinton signed into law the Higher Education Act of 1997. Congress affirms the importance of student’s First Amendment rights at institutions of higher learning that accept federal funding. Last time I checked, Colgate receives federal funding. Colgate abides by Title IX and Affirmative Action laws. Why do they choose not to abide by the Higher Education Act and respect student’s First Amendment rights?”M-N: Should the administration not respond to the rally, is there anything you have planned for the remainder of the year?SD: Yes. We’re not done with F.A.C.T. It won’t dissolve after the rally. One of the great things about F.A.C.T. is that it’s not just seniors. There have been underclassmen who have been involved with F.A.C.T. and who have been taking leadership roles. So, even if we don’t get our desired results, we’ll continue to educate the Colgate community and challenge the administration’s blatant abuse of student rights.