By The Berea Torch
On February 14, 2022, AVP of Student Life Gus Gerassimides sent an email to Ülvi Gitaliyev about complaints against The Berea Torch. Those complaints are stated verbatim from the email (also the cover image above).
- “Soliciting on campus as an unofficial organization”
- “Using campus resources to produce an unofficial publication”
- “Creating a threatening environment for students”
The meeting was then set to be had on February 22, 2022, with Ülvi Gitaliyev, Gus Gerassimides, Rachel Burnside, Charles Saunders, and a member of Public Safety. Multiple members of The Berea Torch attended this meeting, as well, though, being uninvited but were accepted, regardless. Gus Gerassimides did NOT attend the meeting. Before the meeting, it was stated that the meeting would be recorded on the Public Safety officer’s body cam. We, The Berea Torch, also audio recorded the meeting for ourselves.
In the meeting, the main point of discussion was the imagery used on The Berea Torch posters, it being Soviet, and how there were complaints that it was triggering. Charles Saunders stated, “it was triggering to people from Eastern Europe and that it has brought up trauma – triggered trauma response from history and stories told from their family” and “basically, they ask you use different imagery.” Lily Barnette, the co-founder of The Berea Torch, asked that if we changed the imagery on the posters, could they be posted again, and Charles Saunders responded with “no… because you have to be recognized by the College.” Furthermore, it was explained how they were not allowed to be posted on campus spaces because everything, including tables, laptops, printers, etc., are deemed “campus resources.” Charles Saunders stated, “with this policy, we are usually lenient until we start getting complaints. And then once we get a complaint, we have to actually enforce the policy.” When asked for transcripts of the formal complaints, Charles Saunders said, “that is a good question.”
Something interested to note from the meeting is that Charles Saunders said, “Also, the other thing I see where y’all have been doing interviews. Just be aware where you are not a recognized student organization, with the interviews, if you misquote or someone doesn’t like what you quote or how you portray the interview, you do open yourselves up for a lawsuit, so, and the school will not have your support in that.”
The other complaint, specifically the third, was not addressed in the meeting. In fact, The Berea Torch created a document addressing each of the formal complaints with citations from the Student Handbook and the Registered Student that was brought to the meeting. It was said by Charles Saunders that the document would be forwarded to Gus Gerassimides and that we could have a meeting with him, actually present.
On February 28, 2022, Ülvi Gitaliyev sent a follow-up email to Gus Gerassimides about scheduling a meeting to discuss his concerns and our rights within the campus, to which he never got a response. And that brings us today, March 4, 2022, with the most recent development of Gus Gerassimides sending out an email to the entire campus, including students, faculty, and staff, about The Berea Torch.
The Berea Torch finds this highly disrespectful. We attempted to communicate with Gus Gerasassimides, and he failed to meet with us multiple times.
In his recent email, he states, “Across the country, unrecognized organizations, because they are not subject to college rules or oversight, pose increased risks to students and the campus community.” What risk does The Berea Torch pose? Does it not seem like a gross generalization to say that independent publications cause risk to students and the campus community when those publications are a specific place for students and the campus community to voice their opinions?
Furthermore, he stated, “Students, faculty, and staff are discouraged from giving interviews to Berea Torch representatives or otherwise supporting group operations.” Why is this discouraged? Everyone reserves the right to decline invitations by The Berea Torch, but equally, everyone reserves the right to interact with us. We, the campus community as a whole, are not children that need to be told who we can and cannot interact with.
The Berea Torch has decided to create a petition for those against the suppression of independent media at Berea College! We are willing to fight this until the end and stay an independent student-run publication!