In September, a reporter from the online journal service Project Veritas posed as a student and surreptitiously took a video of interim Title IX coordinator and Assistant Director of of Equal Opporunity and Affirmative Action, Kelly Grab, within her office.
In this video, the reporter pretended to be a student on campus who had been triggered by the distribution of copies of the Constitution, which was facilitated by another member of Project Veritas.
Grab responded to the alleged student in an open and helpful manner, an attitude that is central to her position. Eventually the reporter asked Grab to shred the document, claiming that it would be therapeutic for her.
The group then uploaded the video to their website, where it went viral last week, gaining attention not only from students on campus, but also from various news sources all over the country.
We at The Miscellany News believe that the behavior of the reporter and Project Veritas are offensive and despicable, and we stand by Kelly Grab for doing her job despite the attempts to vilify and entrap her.
Starting with the logistics, it is not legal to pose as a student and request services that are unavailable to the public. While recording the video of Kelly in her office is legal, but taking and posting a video of someone without their consent, specifically in a space meant to be confidential, is highly inappropriate and disrespectful.
The situation Grab encountered was a manipulative and deliberate attempt to sabotage her and the College. Project Veritas meant to discredit this institution and create a mockery of the American collegiate system.
The Constitutions in question were passed out Halloween night by another representative of Project Veritas.
In the video posted online, a man dressed up as the Constitution hands out pocket Constitutions, often making uncomfortable or misogynistic comments to passers by. This was obviously an important aspect of the construction of this ruse. The fact that the project was simulated from start to finish makes the results of the report even less convincing.
Project Veritas is an online news project that claims to “investigate and expose corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud, and other misconduct in both public and private institutions in order to achieve a more ethical and transparent society.” (Project Veritas).
Illegally posing as a student to surreptitiously film an interaction is neither ethical nor transparent. In addition to the manipulative set-up of the video, the language of the article and headlines is equally misleading.
The headline on the Project Veritas website is “Hidden Camera Captures College Officials Disparaging and Shredding Constitution.” This type of rhetoric makes it sound like a security camera captured Vassar administrators destroying the original Constitution on their own time.
In reality, the situation was entirely artificial, within a private office, and based on the requests of the reporter. Grab has been publicly humiliated for catering to the needs of a person she presumed was a student.
The motives behind this type of video can be difficult to make out. However, Vassar has not been the only college targeted by the group.
The Project Veritas website has published articles in the past week about administrators at Cornell University, Syracuse University, Yale University, Oberlin College and the University of North Carolina. The group has reported on similar results involving administrators shredding or tearing copies of the Constitution.
It seems that Project Veritas Founder and President James O’Keefe and his staff are, through their manipulative processes and misleading headlines, attempting to show that colleges are willing and prepared to do anything to provide support for students. “Political correctness has clearly run amok on college campuses across the nation,” said O’Keefe in a response to the video. O’Keefe is using the image of destroying the U.S. constitution as a platform for his ideas about how modern collegiate responses to (triggers and oppression) are absurd and un-American.
Regardless of motive, O’Keefe and his team proved little in their covert operation. Their efforts to defend the Constitution involved mocking it.
Parading around campus in a costume that degrades the document far more than shredding it at the request of a distressed student clearly shows mixed views on the document itself. Even then, O’Keefe didn’t prove anything new.
The role of trigger warnings, the increasing importance of being politically correct and colleges’ role in making campuses safe places for students have been hot topics of discussion in publications like the Times, the Atlantic and more.
The choice to target the Title IX office also poses many problems. The nature of the office is to be a safe, nonjudgmental space. Misusing this service degrades the very nature of the resource it offers students on campus in vulnerable times. This is a resource that many students on campus find necessary. Through taking advantage of the openness of Vassar’s administration, Project Veritas and their reporters have added another layer of insult to their attack on Grab and our campus.
Using this office bypasses the legitimate, academic conversations taking place about these topics; it undermines an office that serves an important, necessary purpose on a college campus. And worst of all, it mocks students who take advantage of these resources, which can be a particularly taxing experience.
We at The Miscellany News believe the school and student body responded appropriately to the incident. Project Veritas chose Vassar for a reason and this reason is what has united the campus around Grab in the wake of the scandal.
Hours after the video was posted online, President Catharine Bond Hill sent the student body a message condemning the group and offering full support to Grab, commending her work as an administrator at Vassar. By the next morning, a petition was circulating on Facebook requesting students sign their names and show their support as well. This petition received many signatures within hours, including the names of various alumnae/i.
We believe that these events expose not only the audacity of far-right groups like Project Veritas, but also the united front we can form in the face of hatred and bigotry.
—The Staff Editorial represents the opinions of at least 2/3 of our Editorial Board.