Response to SUNY New Paltz’s Proposed “First Amendment Support Team”

On September 2nd, the SUNY New Paltz administration sent an email to select deans and chairs in order to identify and recruit faculty and staff volunteers who will be appointed to the proposed First Amendment Support Team (FAST). When protests and rallies arise on campus, a FAST unit comprised of four members (a mix of faculty, staff, and plain-clothed UPD officers) will be deployed to surveil the protest, intervene if they violate campus rules, and to call University Police if they determine that the protest is “disruptive or dangerous.”

We the undersigned believe that if implemented the First Amendment Support Team (FAST) will serve to perpetuate the violence of anti-Black racism on the campus of SUNY New Paltz.

FAST is being branded as “anti-racist” and an extension of the college’s commitment to becoming an anti-racist campus. We write to express our firm belief that this is notand cannot bean anti-racist initiative. We have deep concerns that the formation, selection process, purpose, and implementation of FAST will uphold white supremacy, white patriarchal paternalism, and white fragility on the SUNY New Paltz campus.

Below, we outline multiple concerns about the development and implementation of FAST, and ultimately, recommend its suspension.

Protests & Student Voice

The creation of FAST comes at a time when most protests and demonstrations are for, and in support of, Black Lives, and in opposition to police brutality and the over-policing and criminalization of BIPOC. As centuries of struggle for Black liberation and social justice have taught us, protest remains a crucial vehicle for amplifying marginalized voices and effecting widespread change. BLM@S acknowledges the power of protest to disrupt laws, regulations, and norms that are unjust and inequitable. 

SUNY New Paltz has a long history of involvement in the fight for social justice—indeed, our Black Studies Department was established during a previous era of mass protest against anti-Black racism. Our historical and institutional memory, as well as the campus commitment to anti-racism, stand in direct opposition to the establishment of a committee such as FAST. 


The recruitment email indicates that “FAST members must assess their capability to remain neutral and restrain themselves from being active participants in any protest/demonstration gatherings. As agents of the College, members must be content-neutral as they offer logistical and resource-based support to students.” It is deeply concerning that in participating in this task force, participants are being asked to surrender their first amendment rights as a prerequisite. 

How can FAST members be both “neutral” and “agents of the college,” at once? As Bishop Desmond Tutu put it: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

The recruitment email also mentions that FAST members will be trained on first amendment rights, free speech rights, and de-escalation techniques when speaking with student protesters before and during protests. Including the word “de-escalation” and highlighting an alternative route to University Police involvement does not necessarily suggest the adoption of an anti-racist policy or practice.

Based on the FAST recruitment email and the preceding all-campus “SUNY Protest Policies and the Current Pandemic” email, FAST members are functionally being asked to maintain the prevailing systems of power. Creating an anti-racist campus requires challenging, dismantling, and/or defunding systems that oppressnot reinforcing and protecting them under the guise of neutrality.

Transparency & Centering Black Voices

Any anti-racist policy, protocol, or training developed by the administration should collaboratively consult Black members of the campus community, and provide the necessary resources with which to do so. Unless anti-racist initiatives center Black voices, they risk being built on power hoarding (white supremacy), lack of transparency, and fear (white fragility). We support the campus and this administration in continuing to resist these learned behaviors, but our first concern is that initiatives like FAST are being developed with little-to-no input from the communities that they claim to serve. 


Initiatives like FAST cannot prevent further violence against anyone fighting for justice at SUNY New Paltz. Therefore, we respectfully recommend that:

  • plans for FAST be immediately suspended
  • any further anti-racist campus plans include input from the extended non-administrative BIPOC community of SUNY New Paltz, and
  • funds allocated to UPD be re-allocated to anti-racist efforts and to programs and departments that benefit BIPOC students, including but not limited to new tenure-track faculty positions and more mental health counselors trained in dealing with racial trauma.

Signed (in alphabetical order),
Emily Abramson, MPS in Humanistic & Multicultural Ed ‘19
Madison Albright, Adolescence Education: English ’20
Mona Ali, Associate Professor, Economics
Asmaa Amadou, Class of 2016
J.W. Anderson, Ph.D., Com. Department
Callan Angrisani, Class of 2016
Isabelle Antos (4th year undergrad)
Laura Arias – MPS in Humanistic & Multicultural Ed ‘20
Patricia Backman – 2016
William Ballner, WGSS and Creative Writing ’20, HME ’22
César Barros A., Associate Professor, Director, Latin American & Caribbean Studies Program; Languages, Literatures and Cultures.
Kate Bellody, Research & Education Librarian
Basil Bennett-Levy
Brandon Bera, Instructional Support Technician, Chemistry
Sunita Bose, professor, sociology
Elizabeth Browne/DMJ/2021
Luz Browne, LMSW (CLASS OF ’15)
Karl Bryant, associate professor, Sociology and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Nancy Campos, Director of AC^2 Program
Lisa Cavallero, Adjunct Lecturer, Teaching and Learning / Class of 2010, Education & Black Studies
Kieran Cavanagh (Mathematics & Mechanical Engineering ’21)
Mette Christiansen, Instructor, Department of Sociology
Megan Coder Cataloger, Sojourner Truth Library
Carolyn Corrado, Lecturer, Sociology
Maureen Crocker, Community, Alum, Adjunct Ed. Studies
Anthony Dandridge, Lecturer, Black Studies
Ann V. Dean, Educational Studies & Leadership
Izabelle Silva do Nascimento, Graduate student in the Humanistic /Multicultural Education program
Judith Dorney, retired Associate Professor, Educational Studies
Elliott Eminizer, class of 2020
Salvatore Engel-Di Mauro, Professor, Geography
Jonathan Espinosa, Class of 2013 (Black Studies)
Yohely Espiritusanto 2020
Ediliana Estrella
Ed Felton, Art Department
Sophie Field — English ‘20, ‘22g, Graduate Teaching Assistant
Andrea Frank, Associate Professor. Art / Photography
Matthew Friday, Graduate Coordinator Department of Art
Gordana Garapic, Geology
Andrea Gatzke, Associate Professor, History
Michael Gayle, Associate Professor, Interim Chair Dept of Black Studies
Jackie George, Associate Professor, English
Erin Gilroy, Class of 2020
Anna Gjika, Assistant Professor, Sociology
Kiersten Greene, Associate Professor, Teaching & Learning
Sophie Greenseich, Class of 2022
Giordana Grossi, Professor, Psychology
Morgan Gwenwald, Head of Special Collections, Sojourner Truth Library
Colby Harvish, Assignments Coordinator, Residence Life
Claire Hero, Adjunct lecturer, English
Chelsea Herzig class of 2021
Keely Heuer, Associate Professor, Art History
Lois Hicks-Wozniak, Adjunct Lecturer, Music
Caroline Hopenwasser, Teaching and Learning
Benjamin Junge, Associate Professor, Dept. of Anthropology
Brianna Knight 2020
Joshua Korenblat, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design
Adolfo Bejar Lara, Assistant Professor; Languages, Literatures & Cultures
Emily Leiter NP’24
Jamie Levato, ’03 and ’06g
Nathan Liebert (Music 2019)
Teresa Mandrin ’17 ’19g
Jeremy Marotta Education 2016
Adrianna Martinez, Research & Education Librarian, Sojourner Truth Library
Jed Mayer, Associate Professor, English
Kate McCoy
Larry McGlinn, Associate Professor, Department of Geography
Shannon McManimon, Educational Studies & Leadership, Humanistic/Multicultural Education Program
Kathleen McNenny adjunct
Lauren Meeker, Associate Professor, Anthropology
Leanna Mellon, Assistant Professor, Teaching & Learning
Nate Merrill, Lecturer, Mathematics
Amanda Merritt, School of Education
Scott Minkoff, Associate Professor, Political Science
Valerie Mittenberg, Collection Development Librarian
Honor Montmarquet, (Sociology and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies ‘21)
Laura Morcone, Undergraduate Admission
Shealyn Naughton (Student / Early Childhood & Childhood Education / Class of 2021)
Natalie Nunez psychology & sociology ‘20
Brian Obach, Professor, Department of Sociology
Caitlin O’Connor
Chrissy O’Grady, Research & Education Librarian, Sojourner Truth Library
Joel Oppenheimer, Psychological Counseling Center
Meg Devlin O’Sullivan, Associate Professor, History and WGSS
Jessica N. Pabón-Colón, Associate Professor, Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies
Sarah Pallone, Psychological Science MA ’22
Paige Panetta
Gowri Parameswaran, Educational Studies & Leadership
Chris Piedra, Class of ‘21
Jeff Pollard, International Programs
Luz Porras, Spanish Lecturer Languages, Literatures & Cultures
Will Raphaelson Political Science ‘14
Katherine Raynor – Instructor in Human Services and Alum ’08
Gabriella Ricciardi, undergraduate 2023
Rachel Rigolino, English Department
Melissa Yang Rock, Associate Professor, Geography
Edgar Rodriguez, faculty member 1974 to 1984 Spanish & Education n
Deyanira Rojas-Sosa. Associate Professor. Latin American and Caribbean Studies @ Languages Department
Anne R. Roschelle, Professor of Sociology, Chair of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Marguerite Royo-Schottland, Geography, Class of 2021
Mark Rumnit, Director, Scholar’s Mentorship Program
Jonathan Rust, Associate Professor of Psychology and Counseling
Jennifer Rutner, Research & Education Librarian, Sojourner Truth Library
Kelsey Ryan, class of 2016
Lee Salisbury, Geography 2020
Alaine Salvati, Administrative Assistant Black Studies Department
Kate Salvo, ‘20 Communication Disorders and Linguistics
Jeannette Sanchez, ’16 – Complex Director
Nancy Schniedewind, Professor Emerita, Humanistic/Multicultural Education Program
Noah Schoer Digital Media Programming and Management ‘15
Staci Scott HME 2020
Jason Serrano, Center for International Programs, ’15 Asian Studies, ’20g Humanistic/Multicultural Ed.
Robyn Sheridan, Educational Studies & Leadership, Humanistic/Multicultural Education Program
Laura Silvernail, staff Chemistry & Art History (alum ’16)
Josh Simpson ’13 Black Studies and History
Irwin Sperber, Sociology Department
Jeff Starace, Class of 2017, MS in Music Therapy
Jordan Taylor
Sam Trollo, WGSS ‘19
Sofia Troy, Sociology, Class of 2015
Jamison Tyler, ’16 Journalism, ’20g Humanistic/Multicultural Education
Amanda Valentin, Office Assistant, Comm Studies/DMJ
Michael Vargas, Professor, History
Ramon Vasquez, Teaching & Learning
Madeline Veitch, Research, Metadata & Zine Librarian, Sojourner Truth Library
Maggie Veve, Professional Staff, Retired
William Vrachopoulos, Photography Graduate Assistant
Jennifer Turner Waldo, Associate Professor Biology
Chris Whitaker, Advisor, School of Education
Erma-Lee Williams ECE/Childhood Education ’23
Beth E. Wilson, Lecturer, Art History
Sarah Wyman (English/FDC)
Jada Young, Black Studies, ‘13
Caitlin Zelley, class ’21

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