A Month After Binghamton Protests, Congressman Reed Calls For Answers

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ITHACA, NY (WSKG) –  In a letter to the SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson and Binghamton University President Harry Stenger, Southern Tier Congressman Tom Reed questions the fairness of SUNY-system procedures around political expression and free speech.

Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Media

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) at Dryden High School. October 1, 2019. (Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Media)

His letter is a response to actions taken by the University after a protest erupted over a campus visit by a conservative economist Art Laffer.   The Republican congressman asked for explanations of SUNY-wide policies for student groups and rights to invite speakers. Reed asks specifically about incidents at Binghamton University before and during Laffer’s November visit.

There was a conflict in mid-November over a display set up by conservative student groups on gun rights. It was set up a few hours after a shooting at a California high school.

Binghamton University has policies and procedures that allow recognized student groups to set up tables and displays in designated areas.

The University administration criticized the conservative groups for not following procedure in applying for permission to set up the display.  They were also accused of deliberately provoking conflict, and not a conversation respecting diverse opinions.

AP Photo/Reed Saxon

Economist Arthur Laffer is interviewed at the California Republican Party convention in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

A few days after that incident, the lecture by conservative economist Art Laffer was disrupted. Two protesters were arrested, the economist was escorted from the building by police and the event was canceled.

Both incidents received national attention from conservative media President Trump mentioned Laffer’s lecture in his recent speech at a conservative student conference.