Professors, Socialists Block Access to SGA-Sponsored Club

In a class directed effort to gain new perspectives on campus politics, yours truly attempted to attend a meeting of the UVM SGA sponsored International Socialist Organization. This meeting was in the Lafayette building on Main Campus. With me was a classmate who was also there to try to gain a new perspective. I wasn’t there to fight or to argue, but rather to peacefully listen and try to understand. That’s what diversity is all about, right? After being told by ISO members and by UVM English Professor Nancy Welch to leave, I informed them that as an SGA sponsored club, they had to abide by SGA rules. SGA rules dictate that any student can attend any club meeting. They cannot block anyone. I was then accosted by Keith Rosenthal, who told yours truly (who was sitting calmly in a chair) to get the f**k out. Let me make clear that I didn’t go to this meeting to start a fight or to disrupt. I exercised my right as a UVM student, who funds this organization, to observe and try to understand their perspectives. Unfortunately, I endured a hostile, cursing Keith Rosenthal approximately two inches from my face, telling me to get out. I patiently and calmly explained again that I was not there to disrupt and was simply trying to understand where they were coming from. They threatened to call the police to arrest me, for ummm…. something. Cooler heads prevailed and they decided to vote without me in the room on whether they wanted me to stay. During the vote, I visited the SGA office and returned with Dave Cordeau, Speaker of the SGA, and SGA Student Activities Chair Shawna Wells, who informed the ISO that according to Vermont law and the SGA Constitution I was allowed to observe the meeting. The vote concluded in the room. English Professor Helen Scott informed my compatriot and me that if I chose to stay they would cancel the meeting. What are they are trying to hide? I would think they’d welcome their opposites to perhaps dispel perceived misconceptions as to what they stand for. Unfortunately, they had no desire for me to see the inner workings of their organization, even with a promise to behave and observe quietly. The Socialists are permitted, if they choose, to congregate in front of Fort Benning, in Washington, D.C., the Bailey/Howe Library or Waterman to protest loudly and express their opinion on policies that they disagree with. Some may construe those actions as intimidating -especially the actions in Quebec last year. Yet their actions are still permitted. How is it that this same freedom doesn’t apply when someone who has been critical of them simply wants to listen and try to understand? How is it that a UVM professor crossed the bounds of professionalism and told me to leave this meeting? Is this appropriate behavior? UVM professors have a sterling reputation for upholding academic freedom. It is unfortunate that the actions of these professors blemished that reputation. If ever I am again told that I fail to listen to my opponents, they will have themselves to blame.