Less than a month ago, faculty held a protest outside of the Student Union building in protest of a pro-life figure being invited to the campus.
“We’re out here to protest Bishop [Robert J.] Brennan who’s giving a mass and we’re protesting his anti-abortion positions, and also the fact his organization that he sits on regularly disseminates false information about abortion that hurts those who need to access abortion,” Professor Karen Weingarten from the English department, who was one of the protest organizers, said.
Bishop Brennan was invited to campus by Father Jose Diaz, the recently-hired chaplain and director of Campus Ministry at the college, the media relations office at Queens College told The Knight News.
Bishop Brennan, the Bishop of Brooklyn, is currently on the Pro-Life Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). In an infographic found on their website, they claim that, “Abortion does not save women’s lives. Abortion is never medically necessary. It does not treat or solve any pregnancy-related complication[s],” among many other things.
“I’m not opposed to them inviting anyone to campus, but one of the issues that we have as a group — if you refer to the letter that Steven Kruger wrote — is that they circulated an announcement inviting him onto campus as though they were advocating his position,” Weingarten said. “There was no mediation between the college’s own position and the information they were circulating.”
Weingarten, alongside approximately a dozen peers — both faculty and students — stood outside the Student Union in the rain at the same time Bishop Brennan was holding a mass inside the building.
Both campus Public Safety and NYPD were outside with the protestors, being separated from the group by guard rails. The already present guard rails and multiple officers at the start of the protest suggests that the college had heard of the scheduled protest ahead of time.
“One of the things that was in Vice President [Jennifer] Jarvis’ notice to the college was that the Newman Center is not only bringing on a new chaplin — which is fine, it’s an established student-funded group — but that they’re also bringing on four missionaries from this group called FOCUS, which is some kind of new catholic, student missionary group,” said Kruger, head organizer of the protest, and professor in the English department. “In Vice President Jarvis’ response to my letter, she didn’t address the issue at all of what it would mean to have Catholic missionaries appointed to a student-run group at the college. It seems to me that that needs to be addressed by the administration.”
In a statement from the media relations office, the college wrote the following to The Knight News:
“Queens College, through the Student Union and other offices, maintains a long-standing relationship with the higher education offices of the Diocese of Brooklyn, Lutheran Ministries, and Jewish Campus Life,” the statement read. “These offices work directly with the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management to support the college community, in particular students. This does not imply the college’s endorsement of any specific religious views; rather it signifies its support for campus entities that serve students.”
While the protest garnered mixed reactions across the spectrum, ranging from supporters joining them in protest all the way to one individual telling them that “in America you have the right to be retarded,” this protest was the first major on-campus protest since a full return to campus in the Fall of 2022 on matters outside of Queens College academia.
“Open and respectful discourse on topics of importance to all members of our exceptionally diverse college community is encouraged as a matter of free speech,” the statement from the media relations office read. “The college recognizes and respects the right of the bishop and his staff to visit and perform services at the invitation of the Newman Center as well as the right of those who disagree with their views to peacefully protest.”