On Monday, Young America’s Foundation (YAF) reported that their Mississippi State University (MSU) chapter was smeared by a part-time instructor for an activism event about border security.
Ryan Phillips, who teaches “Journalism Ethics” at MSU, quote tweeted a video of the event, saying “Hey the White Male Student Caucus holding a gathering. Hoods and burning crosses optional.”
According to YAF, the purpose of the tabling event was to “drive discussion on border security and President Trump’s proposal for a border wall to stem the flow of illegal immigrants.”
One female member of the club responded to Phillips sarcastically, “Thank you for assuming that I’m a white male!” The female also added, “You’re welcome to come to the table next time and not base your opinion off of one video on twitter.”
In response, Phillips said, “Trust me, I based my opinion on a whole lot more than this video.”
Jesse Watkins, the president of MSU’s YAF chapter, called Phillip’s judgment “ignorant,” adding that he did not speak “with a single representative of the group, in fact, not 1 single member said they were against LEGAL immigration, and you decided to slander us without any concern for truth.”
Spencer Brown, the spokesman of YAF, called the episode “emblematic of a major problem within higher education — and to an extent within the larger culture today — where ideological opponents of conservatism turn to ad hominem attacks and poison the well of ideas in their attempts to silence conservatives.”
“Phillips owes MSU YAF an apology along with those who’ve been afflicted by the hatred of racist intolerance — drawing false comparisons cheapens the horror wrought by the KKK’s despicable worldview,” Spencer added.
In a statement to The Daily Wire, Watkins said Phillips’ tweet “came out of the blue.”
“We had been out for about four or five hours by the time the tweet surfaced,” Watkins said. “In fact, we had been next to the Latino Student Association for the first few hours with no incidents.”
The activism event was called “Build the Wall” and encouraged students to sign a banner and engage in dialogue about illegal immigration.
“We understood that most people weren’t in favor of the wall, but we were hoping to have civil discourse with teachers and students,” Watkins added. “We had fantastic dialogue with probably 50 or so people who disagreed and one protestor who called us fascists, but Mr. Phillips’ tweet really upset most of our members. Many of us jumped to the defense of our young chapter.”
Watkins said he wanted an apology from Phillips for his tweet and told his members to “show maturity and professionalism when dealing with negative tweets.”
“We have been disappointed to see that Mr. Phillips continues to act like we’re attacking him by simply defending our right to disagree with him,” Watkins said. “We have taken this issue up with the communications department here at State, and we are looking forward to handling this accordingly.”
Watkins said he is not trying to silence Phillips but wants him to be “cautious about labeling us without meeting with us.”
Phillips tried to set up a meeting with the chapter after the tweet, but Watkins said he cancelled it after talking with his chapter.
“We figured that we didn’t have much to gain and [had] more to lose,” Watkins said.
In a statement to The Daily Wire, MSU’s Chief Communications Director Sidney Salter called Phillips’ tweets “highly inappropriate, inflammatory, and patently unfair and intolerant.”
“Clearly, the students in the Young Americans for Freedom group were engaged in lawful activities that were within university guidelines. As a newspaper editor and as a part-time instructor in MSU’s Department of Communication, Mr. Phillips should be particularly sensitive to free speech and assembly rights — his own and those of others,” Salter said. “On any given day, students and faculty with widely divergent social and political views intersect on our campus and it is incumbent on all parties to maintain decorum and mutual respect in the conduct of those activities. Mississippi State University stands behind our free speech and assembly policies.”