A Letter From the Editor
By Zainab Iqbal
Published: November 22nd, 2017
Last week, The Excelsior reported and published a piece titled “NYPD Allowed Access to BC Bathrooms.” It was picked up by the NY Post, and then by other news outlets including Fox News, NBC New York, UK’s The Daily Mail, Washington Free Beacon, Campus Reform, and NOQ Report—among many others. But what started as a simple news piece explaining that there were cops on campus using the bathrooms, turned into an exaggerated story insinuating that Brooklyn College hates cops—a story that simply lacks proper reporting.
So, The Excelsior fact-checked it.
NY Post’s headline, which reads, “Brooklyn College doesn’t want police using campus bathrooms,” is simply incorrect. Nowhere in the original reporting done by The Excelsior does it say that. In order for that to be an accurate statement, the NY Post would have gotten an official comment from Brooklyn College saying so. But the only comment they received was, “Brooklyn College offers the use of our facilities to the NYPD and other public servants… as a courtesy.”
The Excelsior, on the other hand, received an official statement from President Michelle Anderson:
“This morning, the New York Post published a misleading article about Brooklyn College and our relationship to the New York City Police Department. Brooklyn College does, in fact, welcome police to use its campus bathrooms. No policy has changed. We have always allowed public
servants to use our facilities under a neutral policy that applies to police, sanitation workers, traffic enforcement agents, and others who work in the field. Everyone needs to use the bathroom at one time or another. Today, I met with the leadership of the local precinct and borough command to reassure them that members of the New York City Police
Department are welcome to use our bathrooms. Since becoming president, I have worked to establish a strong relationship with local law enforcement, and we reaffirmed that relationship today.”
According to the NY Post, Police Commissioner James O’Neill made a statement saying, “Now is the time for everyone to get together. If you take a look at what is going on around the city, now’s the time for people to get to know their police officers, not to push them away.” The Excelsior’s original article did not report on students pushing away cops, as that sentiment isn’t taking place at BC.
The same NY Post article states that there were 75 911 emergency calls made from BC this year. If students were so keen on pushing cops away and “banning” them, why make all these calls?
“Brooklyn College is kowtowing to cop-hating students by directing officers who need a bathroom break to the broken-down facilities in a building on the far edge of campus,” is the NY Post’s lede that needs quite a bit of explaining. It is incorrect to describe the BC community as having “cop-hating students.” The opinion of the anonymous student that was quoted in the original article, does not define nor speak to the perspective of the entire student body, which consists of about 17,000 students. It is also improper to say BC is deliberately making cops use the “broken-down facilities,” when in fact, the majority of the bathroom facilities on campus are “broken-down.” The NY Post only “investigated” one bathroom. It is a major campus issue students have been complaining about for years. On Monday, Nov. 21, for example, the water in the bathroom in Boylan Hall was turned off.
The NY Post article also states that local cops were “outraged at the students’ hostility.” It’s quite unfair to make an accusation that all BC students are hostile based on the opinions of just a few students. In fact, in an unscientific Facebook poll The Kingsman conducted, 123 students voted yes for “The NYPD should be allowed on the premises,” the survey states. 29 students voted no.
“Discussion instead centered on questions such as whether police should be allowed to spy on students without a warrant, and whether officers should be allowed on campus with a loaded firearm,” The Kingsman reported.
The Sergeants Benevolent Association tweeted “… Active shooters, acts of terrorism on campuses and now remove the police. Maybe it’s time people get what they ask for.” The second part of the inappropriate tweet sounds oddly like a threat that incites violence—and worries College of Liberal Arts and Science (CLAS) President Nissim Said.
“I feel that the NY Post crafted their own narrative of the situation without examining the complex context that led to the sentiments students are sharing,” Said told The Excelsior. “This debate is far less black and white than it seems to be. That’s not to say Brooklyn College has a problem with law enforcement. The policy has always been that NYPD are allowed to use the facilities on campus. I appreciate and respect the NYPD, but there is a legitimate history of surveillance, effects of which still linger.”
The NY Post described it as an “NYPD operation.” It is that same NYPD operation that has uneased some of the Muslim population at Brooklyn College. From 2011 to 2015 an NYPD undercover cop was surveilling Muslims on campus. “Mel,” the cop, did not find anything nor arrest anyone on campus. The campus and the students were not aware of her undercover surveillance for four years.
On Nov. 2, The Excelsior covered a campus film screening of “Watched,” a 19-minute documentary that followed two female Muslim students who were surveilled. Students at the screening then expressed their concern over surveillance. Many students are hesitant about cops not because they “hate” them, but because due to past experiences with cops on campus, they are cautious.
“After watching the documentary ‘Watched,’ I don’t feel like there is a sense of privacy for students,” Doha Aljahmi, a sophomore, told The Excelsior.
The Daily Mail wrote that BC is encouraging cops to use “one specific campus bathroom.” That itself is a false statement as the West End Building (WEB) does not only have one bathroom—it has several.
The lede of NOQ Report reads, “…outrageous bathroom policy by a taxpayer-funded public college trying to keep police – including many officers of color – from going anywhere near its precious students.” Based on The Excelsior’s reporting, no such policy has been enacted. NOQ Report is also first to make it a race issue, when in fact, it is not.
The Daily Mail’s headline reads, “Petition is launched to BAN police officers from New York college campus as it emerges the school asks popular NYPD to use one ‘dirty, broken toilet.’” In The Excelsior’s original article, it was reported that, “he was in the midst of drafting a petition.” The petition, whether it exists or not, has not been launched.
After the NY Post published its story, The Excelsior has been getting many comments under the online version of the piece. “I would dearly LOVE & it would be music to my ears, to hear Police were called by Brooklyn College President Michelle Anderson or Staff for help and Police refused to respond!” Brenda Hackney wrote. “This is what these ingrates would deserve and what should happen, to Brooklyn College or any other College who stoops to these insane methods of leadership & educational instruction!” To wish violence upon anyone, especially college students trying to get an education, is morally wrong and disturbing.
The Excelsior stands by its original story, and condemns these news outlets for spinning the story to portray an inaccurate narrative.