On Monday, several Campus Safety and Security (Security) officers, including Director Dave Boyer, were called to Baxter Hall in a response to a student protesting “for Satan” adjacent to where an off-campus pro-life group was tabling.
Joshua Torres ’15 began his protest at around 12:30 p.m. as a reaction to the Students For Life of America (SFLA) table, which was a part of the SFLA tour of colleges. He stood on a ledge at the front of Baxter Hall holding signs that protested human life and calling for support of Satan.
Security received “a couple of reports of a loud disturbance in Paresky,” according to a statement from Steve Klass, vice president for campus life. At 12:50 p.m. Boyer arrived and informed Torres his position on the ledge was a safety concern. Torres climbed down and continued his protest on the floor. He repeatedly asked Boyer what rules he was breaking. According to several observers and Torres himself, Boyer attempted to make physical contact with Torres, and Torres told Boyer not to touch him.
By 1 p.m. there were at least three Security officers present, and a crowd had gathered to observe the events. Shortly afterward, Boyer asked Torres to move away from the pro-life table and Stephen Sneed, associate dean of the College, arrived. Sneed sat down with Torres and several other students present, several of whom had been supporting Torres. By 1:30 p.m. Sneed had asked Boyer and Tony Sinico, associate director of Security, to join the conversation in the middle of Baxter Hall.
During the conversation, Boyer apologized to Torres for attempting to touch him. He also stated that though Security did not make physical contact with students frequently, there was no policy that prevented them from doing so.
One member of the crowd, Conor Dunham ’18, said that he found the protest entertaining and was surprised that “some people thought [Torres] was serious.”
Others responded with less enthusiasm. “Protest is fine,” said Chris Weihs ’15, “but it’s important to maintain a certain level of decorum in our speech … I think that’s where he [Torres] has crossed the line.”
Klass emphasized in his statement that Security and the administration “respect the right of these kinds of organizations to be present in Paresky when sponsored by student groups per regulation” and “the rights of students and others to object to these presentations.”
Torres said that he did not expect the situation to escalate as it did and that his goal was only to “bring people over to the display and make sure no one talking to the pro-lifers could have a moment of peace.”