On the plaza, words may hurt as much as sticks and stones.
Every year, the plaza hosts Brother Jed of Campus Ministries USA and he preaches the word of God. His presence has caused some students feel his statements may border on harassment — violating the plaza’s free speech policy.
“To me, this is a blatant, blatant violation of several university policies. I can’t understand why other people haven’t tried to report this guy,” said Joel Ricklefs, second year statistics graduate student.
According to Ricklefs and others, Jed has allegedly used demeaning terms to refer to women and has allegedly issued unsolicited threats.
“The worst and most egregious act was sexual harassment,” Ricklefs said. “I can’t see how that wouldn’t be sexual harassment, calling any women who walked by a slut or a whore.”
Jed’s words may be affecting the student population, but there is little that administration can do to help students.
“The First Amendment restricts CSU from placing selective limitations on speech or expression simply because it is insensitive, boorish or expresses viewpoints on disfavored subjects,” wrote Joshua Zugish, general counsel office at CSU, in an email to the Collegian. “While many people may find these speakers’ messages insensitive or objectionable, that does not provide sufficient legal basis for prohibiting the speech.”
There are only a few situations in which actions can be taken.
“Expressive activity in an open public forum, such as the LSC Plaza, may not be suppressed, controlled or excluded based upon the content of the speech,” Zugish wrote. “Unless it is necessary to achieve a compelling government interest, such as protecting the health, safety or welfare of the community, and is narrowly drawn to achieve that end.”
Some students, however, feel their welfare is being violated by Jed’s choice of words.
“He was talking about girls dressing provocatively and called me a whore for wearing leggings,” said Ellie Pribus, biological sciences freshman.
Jed denies the use of harsh words while he is speaking on the plaza.
“I don’t say ‘hey let’s go classify humans,’ and say ‘hey that’s a whore over there,’ but on the other hand, when the crowd gathers around, some of them openly admit that they’re sexually active,” Jed said.
According to Jed, his mission at CSU is not to insult students, but rather to save them.
“I’m here to preach the word of God, call students to repentance, that is, to turn away from their sins and put their trust in Jesus Christ,” Jed said.
Jed believes he is not harming the student body and that he must continue what he has been doing for years.
“It’s a life and death matter,” said Sister Pat, member of Campus Ministries USA, a traveling preacher with Jed.
Their mission is spreading salvation and attempting to reach students through the word of God by preaching in the plaza while they hold signs.
One of the signs says, “You deserve Hell.”
“They may mock and ridicule us, but we have good news for them,” Jed said. “They can have their sins forgiven. They can have their pure conscience again.”
Students who disagree vocalize their opinions in a discussion with Jed on the plaza.
“I think it’s completely unfair that they’re making people feel guilty about really defining characteristics like faith, religion, sexuality and ethnicity,” said Sam Kraiger, sophomore psychology major.
For many students, it is not the content that is alarming, but rather the word choice.
“I think he does have the right to be out here, but he doesn’t have the right to threaten people,” Stephanie Kaiser said, member of Leaders in Free Thought.
The word choice has become an increasing concern among students.
“I just don’t want Colorado State to be known as this university where a young female freshman can be walking through the plaza and be called a slut or a whore,” Ricklefs said.
Not every organization entering in a discussion in the plaza is offensive to students. Some come bearing gifts and understanding.
Leaders of Free Thought, a secular group on campus, created a “Brother Jed Recovery Zone” across the plaza from Jed. The club offers students coloring books, puzzles and free hugs.
According to Halden Schnal, member of Leaders in Free Thought, the way Jed goes about creating a conversation is not wise. When conducting conversations for Leaders of Free Thought, he has a different approach.
“We always try to do it in a way that is not damaging to people, that’s very positive because going at somebody … always ends up with the other person shutting down,” Schnal said. “We don’t want that behavior.”
Mustafa Al Lail, PhD computer science candidate, shares a similar position.
“Invite people to the way of your Lord by good preaching and argue with them in the best possible way, with wisdom,” Al Lail said. “I don’t think this is wisdom or a good way to argue with people.”
Collegian Senior Reporter Lawrence Lam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.