BROOKLYN COLLEGE – Two months ago, Brooklyn College Professor Mitchell Langbert posted something on his blog. He wrote, “If someone did not commit sexual assault in high school, then he is not a member of the male sex.” He later said it was satire and was supposed to be funny. Students protested to get him fired, but the Brooklyn College administration cited the First Amendment.
The story died down, until the first week of December, when Brooklyn College’s Young Republican club invited Langbert to speak at their event on campus.
The event, which was titled, “Effete Millennials in Illiberal Universities,” attracted dozens of students and members of the college administration. The majority of them (only four out of 50 students were from the Young Republican club), however, weren’t there to hear Langbert speak about effete Millenials; they were there to question him about his blog post. Or rather – as it turned out – heckle him.
Here’s everything that went down.
The room the event was taking place in had a glass door, so everything that was happening could be seen from both sides. Across the room from where Langbert was speaking, a party was happening: “Disrupting Hate” it was called. It was led by Brooklyn College’s Young Progressive of America (YPA).
Young Republican club member Christian Cozlov began the event by explaining why he invited Langbert.
“It’s not that I’m a provocateur or because I have some desire to trigger the Libs,” he said. “But because their kind of behavior needs to be exposed on campus.” The event did succeed by that measure.
He acknowledged that protesting is free speech, but he asked, “What is the point of free speech if you want to silence those that have it?”
With that, he introduced “the most controversial person on campus.”
Langbert didn’t get far with his speech, which seemed to be about an article in The Atlantic when chants began from outside the room.
“Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Mitchell Langbert has got to go!”
He continued speaking but was cut short when someone from the audience starting reading from his blog post.
“If someone did not commit sexual assault in high school, then he is not a member of the male sex.”
Langbert stopped, threatened to call the cops, and said, “Can someone get a security guard? You’re disrupting a public meeting. Disrupting a public meeting is a violation of the NY criminal code.”
But, the person did not stop reading out loud. In fact, he moved on to reading CUNY’s policy on sexual misconduct. At this point, other students in the room were also shouting Langbert’s words back at him.
A member of the Brooklyn College administration stepped up to the podium and noted that everyone would have a chance to speak, but that was not enough.
Students were still shouting and reading his words. Langbert then asked, “Why are you reading this irrelevant material?”
There were constant back and forths for a few minutes. Members of the Young Republican club also stepped in to say, “Why don’t you listen? Then we’ll have a Q&A.”
Langbert believes that some of the blame goes to Brooklyn College – “The College is teaching students to behave in an uncivil way.”
“Why should we have to let you speak?” “What do you get out of this?” Students shouted from across the room.
At this point, someone asked, “Do you consider yourself a member of the male sex?” To which Langbert answered, “Yes, I do.”
“The statement in the blog was a joke and it’s not really true,” Langbert said. A student noted that joking about sexual assault is dangerous, to which Langbert replied, “I’m not a promoter of rape.”
Then, for about ten minutes, Langbert was able to speak about what he came to speak about and discussed 19th Century colleges. Until someone said, “I have a question.”
“Can you explain to us why the Republican party is OK with sexual assault?”
Langbert did not answer the question, and he continued speaking. Students shouted over him, urging him to answer the question, but he did not stop. A shouting match began again until a member of the College administration stepped in.
It took Langbert a while to answer the question, but he said, “Sexual assault is not a part of the Republican platform.”
This all continued for an hour and 15 minutes. During the time, a speaker was brought into the back of the room where “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga was played aloud and was met with dancing and clapping. This is how the conversation went:
Someone asked, “Is this appropriate?” Someone responded, “It’s free speech.” Someone else said, “It’s more appropriate than sexual assault.”
Another big moment in the event was when a student said, “There is actually some bipartisanship in your blog posts… when you said having committed sexual assault in high school should be a prerequisite for ALL appointments judicial and political.”
“My question is why do you believe sexual assault is a necessary credential for all appointments judicial or political?”
Langbert did not answer the question and continued to speak about what he was speaking about before. He then said, “If I say I’m sorry, will you shut up?”
Everyone repeated the same question several times. Langbert asked, “What was the question again? I didn’t hear it. Can you repeat it again?”
Students repeated it again. And again. And again after Langbert kept pretending he didn’t hear.
At this point, students shouted out why he advocated for rape, to which he said, “I don’t advocate for rape.”
“You do advocate. You said it right here!” A student shouted. To which he replied: “Tough noogies.”
Students shouted “shame” and stormed out of the room.
“I was expecting all of this. The security didn’t stop the shouting, but that is understandable because we have free speech,” Cozlov told Bklyner after the event was over. “I am definitely inviting [Langbert] back again.”
Brooklyn College professor Conor Tomás Reed, who read aloud Langbert’s blog post and the CUNY Policy on Sexual Misconduct throughout the event, had much to say.
“Some members of the Brooklyn College community urged faculty and students beforehand not to protest Langbert, arguing that he megalomaniacally feeds on negative attention,” Reed said. “In a way, they were right — Langbert relished being at the center of the melee that he had caused, and he in fact profits from it, with multiple conservative right-wing foundations now funding his ‘research’ on ‘how indoctrinating left-wing universities have failed their students.'”
“However, we HAVE failed our students, faculty, staff, families, and neighboring communities if we allow unrepentant bigots like Langbert a platform from which to speak, unless he has undergone a formal Community Accountability Process for which he can atone and unlearn his beliefs in rape advocacy (as a source of humor or pride).”
Corrinne Greene, president of the Brooklyn chapter of YPA, had this to say: “Those who were there to question Langbert and speak out in favor of justice and inclusion, far outnumbered those who put on the event.”
The “Disrupting Hate” party was planned right after YPA found out about Langert speaking, Greene said.
“YPA was able to finagle the room across the hall as a secure space to use. Some other groups found out about the event and planned to disrupt, so we were able to give the club that had reserved a space a heads up that their meeting would likely be disrupted, and they decided to use another space for their practice.”
Was Langbert expecting the ruckus? Yes.
“One thing you have to understand is… the students I teach are quite different from this group,” Langbert said. “They’re interested in practical concerns; they’re mature, they tend to be in their mid-20s.”
And Langbert is more than ready to come back. “I’ll be glad to come if you want me to go through this again,” he said. “I have a fairly high tolerance for things like this.”
We reached out to Brooklyn College for comment, but it declined to do so.