Rowan group petitions speakers on campus

Students protest the religious speaker that came to campus on Feb. 18 with a rally held at the location of his speech.  -Staff photo/Kevin Kunzmann

Students protest the religious speaker that came to campus on Feb. 18 with a rally held at the location of his speech. -Staff photo/Kevin Kunzmann


Junior psychology and sociology dual major Lisa Tischio said she approached a religion-based speaker at the clock tower in front of Science Hall on Feb. 18.

“I came out of class and there were male teenagers with the speaker recording people’s reactions to the speech,” Tischio said. “I told the speaker that he didn’t have our consent to record us, and he said that women are illogical.”

Among other comments, Tischio said the speaker told her and her friends that Hell’s “flames are getting hotter for us.”

By the next day, a petition in collaboration with the Progressive Student Alliance and various students had begun to circulate around campus. Tischio said that the petition states “In lieu of the recent hate speech from non-student organizations on campus, students and faculty unite to support a reform of the free speech policy for students and non-students alike on Rowan’s campus.” As of Feb. 25, it has 317 signatures.

“We have no issue with people exercising their practiced religion on campus,” Tischio said. “We have a problem with them attacking students, telling them that they’re going to Hell. We’re not trying to limit the freedom of speech, but expand it while banning hate speech on campus.”

The group also held a public protest at the same clock tower on Feb. 27, promoting their petition while looking to draw more signatures.

PSA president and junior applied sociology major Jenna Siegel said there was discrepancy between students at the protest and those looking to get involved with it.

“A lot of people thought we were trying to get rid of free speech,” Siegel said. “We just want students to feel safe and be heard.”

However, vice president of University Relations Joe Cardona said it is that discrepancy and personal definition of hate speech that draws concern to the petitioning group.

“You really have to be careful about the definition of hate speech, because if it’s people expressing religious views, they have a right to be expressing those views,” Cardona said. “The university does not put up with hate speech as defined and I know that [the protesting students] have talked to Dean [of Student Life Richard] Jones, but they did not file it completely as hate speech.”

Cardona said that the president’s office has not been contacted by the student group, and that the Office of Equity and Diversity is the one that would investigate a case of hate speech or discrimination.

“They would take action against that immediately, and they wouldn’t take it lightly,” Cardona said.

Assistant vice president of Equity and Diversity Johanna Velez-Yelin agreed that a defining instance of hate speech must be more clear for Rowan to take action.

“People have a right to speak,” Velez-Yelin said. “I don’t agree with anything this [speaker] said, but this is about the right to speak versus ‘I don’t like what I hear.'”

Velez-Yelin said that hate speech occurs in public speaking, not a conversation such as the one Tischio had with the speaker. She also added that the speaker’s free speech is protected as long as he doesn’t “incite violence or disrupt the flow of business on campus.”

“Free speech ends when what you’re doing gets in the way of what you’re saying,” Velez-Yelin said. “We have to be careful with opening the door for censoring speech.”

However, Siegel said that Rowan has contradicted itself before with policies on censorship. Siegel said she was part of a group protesting New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s visit to campus in the Fall 2013 semester and that an administration officer escorted the group to “a designated area away from the media.”

Rowan’s student handbook states that in the case of spontaneous protest, “the university expects the students, faculty and/or staff involved to engage in responsible and peaceful assembly and reserves the right for an appropriate university official, such as the assistant vice president for Campus Recreation & Student Activities or a public safety officer, to ask demonstrators to relocate the assembly if it proves disruptive at that particular location.”

Tischio said that there are no solidified plans to move the petition forward at this time, but the group has reached out to Residential Learning and University Housing Director of Student Housing Travis Douglas. However, Douglas said that he has not had any conversation with the group as of Feb. 26.

Tischio also said that the group may be interested in seeking the Student Government Association’s backing in the future. For now, Velez-Yelin said she’d like the chance to sit down with the group and explain both parties’ rights.

“They have a right to protest and speak an opposite message to this man, and the best way to counter what this man believes in is to turn it into a positive message that neutralizes his,” Velez-Yelin said.

For comments/questions about this story, email or tweet @thewhitnews.

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8 Responses to “Rowan group petitions speakers on campus”

  1. Matt Turner
    March 1, 2014 at 12:22 AM #

    How can you “expand” free speech by banning speech? @Lisa Tischio

    Rowan already has robust restrictions on free speech — for example, almost all of Rowan’s public areas should be a free speech zone because it’s a state university and we have something called the 1st amendment, but it isn’t.

    ‘Hate speech’ although abhorrent is not illegal and shouldn’t be. Freedom of speech means you debate your views openly and discuss ideas with other people even if you disagree with their views and find them intolerable.

    I was there during the small protest against Gov. Christie’s visit (watching the speech) and I thought it was absolutely absurd that Rowan University would allow that many police monitor a small gathering of student protestors with signs cordoned outside the event. It completely baffles me that the “Progressive” “Liberal” Miss. Siegel, who had her free speech impeded, would now speak out against someones free speech.

    For your consultation:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

  2. Dr Adeline Tomasone
    March 4, 2014 at 4:38 PM #

    Peaceable assembly does not include insulting and demeaning my in-transit students via bullhorn. Free speech does not entitle anyone to shout foul names, judgments, ugly titles and threats at my students. My students are entitled to a safe and abuse-free environment, an environment which is, for all intents and purposes, their home.

    Best regards,
    Dr. Adeline Tomasone

    • Matt Turner
      March 6, 2014 at 8:29 PM #

      Does the 1st amendment protect foul names, judgements and ugly titles? Yes, it does.

      So long as someone is not threatening and in the process of egging on a fight — that would clearly be disorderly conduct.

      You know what Rowan students also deserve? The liberty to speak their minds openly in public, debate issues and not be afraid of some draconian punishment.

    • Dave Griffin
      March 25, 2014 at 12:34 PM #

      Please see my comment below.

  3. Rupert Pupkin
    March 13, 2014 at 12:22 AM #

    Pretty much everything “Dr.” Adeline Tomasone wrote is wrong. Perhap professors at Rowan should read the First Amendment and the pertinent case law before they make fools of themselves on a public forum. The same goes for the geniuses who yammer on about “hate speech” as if there is some sort of exception to the First Amendment for speech deemed hateful by hypersensitive whiners.

  4. Dr Adeline Tomasone
    March 13, 2014 at 10:12 PM #

    Yes, I am familiar with the First Amendment, Mr Pupkin. Further, I will not be bullied by you or anyone else under any other pseudonym. Whether you deem my opinion foolish or misguided, I am entitled to express it. Maybe I’ll even bring in my bullhorn.

    • Jack B.
      March 14, 2014 at 1:22 PM #

      If using a pseudonym and disagreeing with you constitutes bullying, then you are not in any way qualified to claim familiarity with the First Amendment.

      Snyder v. Phelps, Cohen v. California… you might want to start there in regards to the hate speech thing.

      And as far as publishing opinions under pseudonyms, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court co-authored the Federalist Papers under the name “Publius”. Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” and “The American Crisis” were originally credited to “An Englishman”. I’ll leave it up to you to research the remaining 200+ years of precedent regarding anonymous speech.

      The good news for you is that you are indeed entitled to express your opinions, even if they are at odds with the core principles of free speech.

  5. Dave Griffin
    March 25, 2014 at 12:32 PM #

    I was one of the individuals who orginized the event to preach on Rowan Campus that day. I would be more than willing to meet with anyone in person regarding this issue. Also please note Dr. Adeline Tomasone, it’s clear from your comments that you are either ignorantly misguided or intentioinally slandering those who were preaching, based on your bias against Christians. This is a form of Christophobia and is a display of intolerance toward Christians. No one bullied your students, made threats, used foul names or ugly titles. We lovingly proclaim what God says in His word, the Bible, because we care about people enough to tell them the truth. We have never made any derogatory remarks or statements toward anyone while preaching. If you would be interested in setting up a live public debate I would be happy to do so.

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