By Erin Shanahan
Fordham University Women’s Empowerment (W.E.) created a second Twitter account after discussions with the Office of Student Leadership regarding their “lewd and licentious” posts on their original Twitter account. The original Twitter account is now “Rogue W.E.” while the new Fordham affiliated account is “Fordham W.E.”
Cody Arcuri, assistant dean for Student Involvement, contacted W.E. on Wednesday, Jan. 18 regarding “inappropriate images” posted on their original twitter account.
“This appears to be the Twitter account being used by the W.E. committee under the Progressive Students For Justice student organization umbrella,” Arcuri said in the email to W.E.. “As such, the feed should not contain inappropriate material like this. Please remove it if you have not already done so.”
Arcuri later reviewed several tweets from their page with the organization. He expressed concern that the tweets were often “inappropriate” and potentially contradictory to the group’s goals, according to W.E. He referred to some as “lewd or licentious,” terminology used in the University Code of Conduct, Article 11.
Arcuri requested to meet with the group to review the tweets further and discuss the student organization’s social media goals.
The PSJ: Women’s Empowerment Officiate, Tina McCain, FCRH ’18, Nadine Santoro, FCRH 18, Lexie Messinder, FCRH’18, Sarah Lundell, FCRH ’17, and I’aliyah Wiggins, FCRH 19, responded to Arcuri’s email and called upon the Student Handbook. There is no regulation that specifically details what student organizations are permitted to publish on social media, according to W.E.
The group cited the “Report on Speech and Expression of Student Organizations at Fordham University” as well as the University’s Demonstration Policy and Code of Conduct. The group claims that their posts do not break any of these regulations.
“The account was created in 2013 as a means of fostering dialogue and free expression within the Women’s Empowerment community,” the Officiate wrote to Arcuri. “For these reasons, we believe that asking us to remove ‘inappropriate’ content which does not in any way cause harm to others is an act of unjust censorship.”
The group did not schedule a meeting time with Arcuri.
Arcuri responded to this email and discussed the Twitter account’s association with the university’s name.
“As the Twitter account appears to be the sole account associated with our University student organization and also uses the Fordham name, we expect that you remove any inappropriate language and manage the feed so that such posts are avoided in future,” Arcuri said.
As a result of this request, W.E. informed Arcuri of the creation of a separate account: The original account became “Rogue Fordham W.E.” while the new account was named “Fordham W.E.” According to the Officiate, “Fordham W.E.” would be used to post information about official club business, such as events and club meeting times.
Arcuri and W.E. leaders met on Friday to discuss the two separate twitter accounts further.
At this meeting Arcuri asked W.E. to either stop posting “obscene/inappropriate” material on their Twitter pages or to change the page’s name so that it is not associated with the student group and with Fordham, according to the Officiate. Furthermore, according to W.E., failure to do so would result in the group’s constitution being denied or prolonged approval by Dean Rodgers.
W.E. has been attempting to have their constitution approved for the past four years. Although it has never been denied, it has gone through several edits regarding formalities at the USG level which has prolonged its approval.
In addition, according to W.E., Dean Arcuri cited several tweets which were posted on their original account as “inappropriate.” He strongly encouraged that W.E. restrains from posting similar tweets on their official account.
As a result of this discussion, the original account entitled “Rogue Fordham W.E.” further edited its name to simply “Rogue W.E.,” removing its Fordham affiliation, this past Friday afternoon.
The Women’s Empowerment Officiate expressed discontent with this situation to The Fordham Ram in the following statement:
“The specific focus on vaginas, menstruation, nipples, and female masturbation being ‘lewd’ constitutes sexist body-policing and echoes the long standing systematic oppression of women and trans people through control of their bodies. Furthermore, the sexualization of drawings of our bodies by administration is an explicit example of the kind of rape culture that our club works to dismantle. In addition, multiple tweets that the administration objected to, such as the use of the word “lesbian,” could not be argued by any means to be offensive or lewd, and the suggestion otherwise reveals the blatant homophobia of Fordham’s administration. Procedurally, the administration’s appeal to the “lewd and licentious” portion of the Student Code of Conduct fails to realize that what is considered “lewd” or taboo has always been informed by hegemonic power structures and the othering of marginalized people. Not only is the administration attempting to exert control over our club despite the fact that there is no existing social media policy (nor should there be), we view this as yet another example of constraints on free speech at Fordham, beyond the already restrictive demonstration and distribution of literature policies.”
Dean Rodgers expressed his stance on the situation to The Fordham Ram as well:
“Many of us have worked hard over the years to maintain very wide latitude for our student organizations as they seek to express their viewpoints- this contribution to discourse on campus is significant and a critical part of the educational process outside the classroom. Social media has widened the variety and opportunity for viewpoint expression immensely in recent years, but all are familiar with the opportunities this powerful medium also provides for misuse and abuse. Unlike personal social media- which we generally consider private unless brought to our attention for illegal use or violations of the University Code of Conduct– student organization social media activity is an activity that our staff occasionally must discuss with club officers. There are, of course, reasonable limits on student organizations in this area. Unlike viewpoint expression that we would encourage be shared on social media by our clubs and organizations based on their missions, any material that is obscene, inappropriate, harassing, or may violate our Code will move staff to ask questions and suggest further reflection. We do this by first requesting that the organization engage in discussion with us. Except very recently, a quick note inquiring about a tweet or post that may not have been fully-considered has been enough to elicit further thought and removal of the material. I expect our staff to engage in these discussions as these things come up and was glad to see our students respond. We may not always agree in our judgments on these things, but my expectation is that we always listen carefully, and I know our staff has done so in this case over many weeks.”