Student Protesters Clash with Public Safety

By ELIZABETH LANDRY
News Co-Editor Emerita

The Fordham community’s social media was lit up Thursday afternoon by videos showing physical altercations between members of the Office of Public Safety and two Fordham students during a protest outside the office of University President Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J. Two Public Safety supervisors were later treated for injuries.

In the live stream uploaded by Fordham Students United (FSU), a suited man, identified by FSU as Security Services Investigator William J. McSorley, and Sarah Lopez, Fordham Rose Hill ’18, appear to be locked in a physical battle against the wall of the hallway at Cunniffe House at Fordham Rose Hill (FRH) at the start of the video.

“You’re hurting me!” Sorley repeatedly yells. “Ow, my leg, you’re pulling on my leg!”

He appears to be blocking Lopez’s movement with his body, as she shouts “It’s honestly getting hard to breathe back here.”

“Then get off me,” he replies.

“I’m not on you!” she screams back.

In the original live streamed video that was published to the Fordham Students United (FSU) Facebook page, another student could be seen allegedly shoving a public safety officer and grabbing his collar. The video has since been taken down and replaced with an edited version that omits this part of the altercation.

The person holding the recording phone at one point falls to the ground, and after a few moments is asked to leave the area.

The FSU protest, the latest in what has become a string of rallies in favor of Fordham Faculty United (FFU)’s push to unionize, met on the steps of Walsh Library around 1 p.m. Participants marched to Cunniffe House, where last week they say they were told that McShane “had more important things to do” than respond to their requests for conversation.

According to the University statement, a group of student protesters forced their way into the foyer of the president’s office. Public Safety supervisors blocked the entrance, the statement reads, and “demonstrators vigorously attempted to physically remove a supervisor from in front of the door,” refusing “multiple commands…to leave the entrance.”

Student organizer Sapphira Lurie, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’17, said the supervisor who “pinned” a student against the wall, seen in the video, “ran ahead of” the protesters to block the door. “[The student] was kind of trapped behind him and eventually he started to crush her…Eventually she was allowed to get out but only after protesters were chanting ‘Let her go,’ ‘She can’t breathe,’ because she was saying that she was having difficulty breathing as he was crushing her…She’s traumatized.”

In the video, the student can be seen screaming and grimacing.

A student yelled out while seemingly trapped behind a member of Fordham Public Safety in Cunniffe House on Apr 27. (Fordham Students United/Facebook).
A student yelled out while seemingly trapped behind a member of Fordham Public Safety in Cunniffe House on Apr 27. (Fordham Students United/Facebook).

A statement from FSU called Public Safety’s response “brutal force on multiple students,” and accused the office of using “deception, physical violence, and coercion” “appalling and antithetical to our Jesuit values.”

“[Our intention was] to speak to [McShane] about how he’s been ignoring contingent faculty who make up the majority of the faculty here,” said Lurie. “For him to send about 10 public safety, top administrators to deal with us rather than to actually speak to us about these issues that matter so much to the faculty and students here is really telling of the way that Fordham pushes people aside when they want the things that they deserve.”

She also said she was pushed and sent “flying through the air.”

The university statement said that the director of Public Safety at FRH sustained a gash on his left hand and was treated at Montefiore Hospital, and that a second Public Safety supervisor received a cut to his forearm which was treated at the University Health Center. The Fordham Ram reported via Twitter that the director’s gash would require stitches.

Lurie said she had seen the gash and thought it might have been “due to friction.”

“The man was very old, I don’t know why he got involved in this, he shouldn’t have been there,” she said. “But he had very thin skin.”

After the group was cleared from the door, the protest was allowed to continue, and although the statement says no protesters were injured, those who were there say it was “intense” on both sides.

“today’s actions by protesters mark a regrettable departure from the civility and care for one another that is a deeply ingrained characteristic of Fordham culture.”

Outside, a second altercation took place between three Public Safety officers and Kyle Prütz, FCRH ’17, in which his glasses were broken.

Prütz said that this was his first time participating in a protest for the Fordham faculty, and that after following the movement of the crowd upstairs, he left the hallway when the altercation became an “intense and hostile stalemate.” He said that he held a banner over the building’s balcony while speakers continued the protest on the front steps, but when he descended the stairs he was stopped by the campus director of public safety.

“He immediately grabbed me in a restraining hold, and said that he wanted to ask me questions and that the dean wanted to speak with me,” Prütz said. After he refused and “forcefully pulled” himself out of the hold, he was allowed to walk out of the building. But past the hedges, he was stopped again by three Public Safety officers.

Prütz says he thought he heard them threaten to suspend his account if he did not comply with their request to speak with the dean and provide his ID. “They were holding me back and I was trying to get out of it, it was a pretty significant struggle,” he said. “I was definitely intimidated…I definitely didn’t have a sense of will and autonomy in that moment.”

A video provided by Gunar Olsen, FCLC ’17 shows the officers holding Prütz by his shoulders and the two bags he carried. “They didn’t accuse me of anything other than violating school policy, by refusing to show my ID,” Prütz said. “And they also said I was ‘obstructing an investigation.’”

Lurie called the interaction with Prütz a physical assault. “They grabbed him to try to identify him, which I would say is also a gross violation of their duties as public safety officers,” she said.

In the video, the officers let Prütz go after students begin to loudly question why he was singled out. Now, he says, as a veteran he will need to visit a Veterans’ Administration hospital to get another pair of glasses.

The statement from the university did not directly address specific actions in either altercation, but said, “Peaceful demonstrations are certainly part of the normal discourse the University expects and encourages on campus, but using physical force against any person is counter to Fordham’s academic and Jesuit values. The University condemns the actions of those protesters who used physical force to make their point, and in the process injured two members of the Fordham community. We expect more from our students and are rarely disappointed, but today’s actions by protesters mark a regrettable departure from the civility and care for one another that is a deeply ingrained characteristic of Fordham culture.”

Update: A previous version of this article stated that Prütz was not close to the first physical altercation. It has been updated to reflect that he was.

Update, April 29 at 1:19 p.m.: The article has been updated to more accurately reflect what allegedly happened in a deleted portion of a Fordham Students United live stream video of the event. 

Update, May 1 at 6:23 p.m.: The article has been updated to reflect the identity of the student in the fore of the first video from the Fordham Students United live stream.

11 COMMENTS

  1. “The man was very old, I don’t know why he got involved in this, he shouldn’t have been there,” she said. “But he had very thin skin.”

  2. “Student Protesters Clash with Public Safety”? More like ASSAULT. Your title sugarcoats the severity and gravity of the event and minimizes the alteration. Do better.

  3. give me a break. Rich students in a rich private institution “protesting” because rich professors will be slightly less rich if the rich administration takes a bit more of their salary for medical benefits. The University charges about $70,000 per year to attend. Let that sink in – $70,000. Professors at Fordham are certainly in the top 10% of salaried employees in the nation, and are likely pay less for healthcare than the average American, which is typical at a tax-exempt employer. They probably also get very generous retirement and other benefits, something all of these students will never see in their lifetimes, after graduation. For this pitiful, petty dispute of the wealthy vs the wealthier to be play-acted like a civil rights protest is an insult to everyone who’s ever protested something important. This isn’t Selma.

    Professors: stop inciting gullible young students to “protest” what is essentially a minor labor dispute.

    Administration: consider the damage you do to the reputation of the University by protracting the dispute. Be reasonable and meet the professors in the middle.

    Students: study real injustice and go protest that.

  4. Oh God no not Fordham too. This was my school 6 years ago. I hate to see it succumb to this PC, liberal nonsense and protests.

  5. The comments above are pretty disgusting. Sad. No doubt they bolster this deeply cynical administration, which now, escalates, and targets another student- see below. Shame!

    Lincoln Center Campus
    Via email

    Dear X,

    I am writing to notify you that the interim measures described in this email are being taken to respond to the serious incident in which you were involved on April 27, 2017 at the Rose Hill campus and to your alleged conduct in that incident. These measures are being taken per the University Code of Conduct as published in the relevant section of the Student Handbook University Regulations. Specifically:

    An accused student shall be free from student conduct sanctions pending the conclusion of his or her hearing, except in cases of refusal or failure to appear or where the Dean of Students determines that the well-being including, but not limited to, the health and safety of the community or of the accused student is endangered by that student’s presence on campus. In these cases, the Dean of Students may take appropriate interim measures, including temporary suspension of the accused student.
    The following appropriate interim measures are being taken:
    1. Interim Suspension from Housing: until further notice and pending the outcome of the conduct process, you are suspended from the University’s housing program. In light of the significant distance between campus and the home address we have on record for you, this measure will be held in abeyance until further notice.

    2. Access Restriction: you are not permitted to access the Rose Hill campus of Fordham University until further notice. This includes off-campus housing areas. 

    3. Suspension of Privileges: until further notice, you may attend class but your access to facilities at all Fordham University campuses is restricted to those required by your academic program. This includes the buildings in which your assigned classes are held, the Quinn Library and the offices of faculty and/or academic advisors with whom you are required to meet for your academic program. While you may of course have access to emergency/service spaces such as health and counseling centers, access to residential, recreational, extracurricular activity-related, and other non-academic spaces on the campus is prohibited unless you have received permission from the Dean of Students or designate for such access (contact below). 

    4. Written Warning: this letter also serves as a warning to avoid any violations of the University’s Code of Conduct and University Regulations. This includes the Demonstration Policy of the University. Further conduct that violates and fails to comply with our policies and standards may result in further disciplinary action, up to and including interim suspension from the University. ​

    Thank you for your cooperation in this matter. Please contact my office if you have any questions whatsoever.
    Sincerely,

    Christopher Rodgers
    ___________________________________________________________

  6. “The man was very old, I don’t know why he got involved in this, he shouldn’t have been there,” she said. “But he had very thin skin.”

    If she believes that people’s skin gets thinner as they age, then she should be tearing up the campus, because she’s an uneducated idiot. She should be fighting for her tuition money back if she believes something as stupid as that.

    Then again, maybe she’s just your typical, petulant moron whose skull is too thick to let any actual knowledge penetrate.

  7. Hey Alfredo, Fordham Faculty United represents the interests of adjunct faculty and other contingent employees at Fordham — not the tenured and tenure-track professors to whom you’re presumably referring. They are certainly not “rich” or “wealthy” as you claim, though they are highly educated and very valuable to the university. As you mention, it’s an expensive place, so you would think that they could pay the people who do much of the actual teaching a decent wage. The labor issues of adjunct professors in the U.S. is certainly not the civil rights struggle of the 50s and 60s, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important, or worth talking about, or fighting for. This isn’t about a tenured professor wanting a 200k salary instead of 180k, it’s about adjuncts, many with terminal degrees, teaching for a very expensive university and not being compensated commensurately with the value they provide.

  8. Alfredo–I’m an adjunct at Fordham. I am far from rich. I get paid $4,000 for a semester long course, with no health coverage and no benefits. I also lack any job security whatsoever. In the fall, the administration mistakenly booked both me and another professor to teach the same course. The called me *the day before classes started* to let me know I wouldn’t be teaching (or getting paid) that semester, despite the commitment that had made to me and the work I’d put into planning the course. No one has claimed this is “Selma,” but it is a case of the University failing to live up to the values it professes.

  9. @alfredo you are just some turd wrapped in an obscure reference t-shirt stained with secret recipe grease marks. you are a turd that was frozen and then used as a tongue depressor in some back alley doctors office. you drive a nissan cube that you “lease” from your mom. you think lizards are the ultimate pet and you don’t own a properly fitting suit. you say “liberry” instead of “library” you squeeze canned tomatoes to make sure they’re fresh. your favorite holiday is Andrew Jacksons birthday. nickelback is your favorite band. your favorite part of lucky charms is the cereal. you clip your toe nails in bed. you still wear cargo pants that zip off into shorts. you don’t tip and you piss on the toilet seat.
    …also i hate you.

  10. Sad place indeed, Fort Fordham is one controlled environment with those protecting their self interests. The reality of Fordham is that it cannot operate without ripping someone off. I am a graduate and can honestly say that I found the university played fast and furious with what a university is or should be. Furthermore my degree the MBA has been pretty much wiped out via McShane and his administration using it as an ATM machine. At one time Fordham’s MBA program had 1800 part-time students attending, the net tuition was redirected throughout Fordham, deadhead deans were put in to play along, the most recent came from the undergraduate without a dean search. Fordham lacks any form of transparency, the trustees are puppets, having done a degree that has become worthless is not fun especially knowing what they skimmed over the years. As it stands Fordham is now running a Master of Science degree mill for Chinese students to make money at GSB grad http://poetsandquants.com/2014/02/18/how-one-year-masters-programs-remade-fordham/ . They also are selling ”collaborative MS degrees to other programs (Stem work visas) for one months academic work at GSB in July https://www.gabelliconnect.com/graduate/fordham-msgf-2016-ceremony/ , most of these programs are unheralded off the map types.

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