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Bill O’Reilly’s criticism of Sex Power God continues on radio

U. officials, UFB head dispute talkshow host's claims

By
Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Calling President Ruth Simmons and other administrators “pinheads,” Bill O’Reilly lambasted the University’s administration Tuesday on his nationally syndicated radio program “The Radio Factor.” He criticized Brown officials for allowing University money to fund Sex Power God and argued that the “liberal” administration doesn’t care about student safety.

Meanwhile, University officials said Tuesday that they are reviewing policies concerning social functions – but not because of O’Reilly’s coverage.

On Monday’s edition of Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor,” O’Reilly showed video of the Queer Alliance party taped by a producer who attended the function. O’Reilly devoted a full hour of his Tuesday radio program to the issue.

Michael Chapman, vice president for public affairs and University relations, told The Herald before “The O’Reilly Factor” aired Monday that Fox News neither asked for nor received permission from the University to film the function, which was held Saturday night in Sayles Hall. “Brown is a private institution and we do not allow the media into University buildings without our permission,” Chapman said.

Citing Tuesday’s Herald, O’Reilly read Chapman’s statement during his radio broadcast and responded, “We weren’t going to ask you for permission, you pinhead. If something is going on out there, we are going to go up there and shoot it. We don’t care what you say. You want to file charges, go ahead.”

Chapman told The Herald late Tuesday that his original statement stands. He declined to comment further about O’Reilly’s television or radio remarks.

All three of Providence’s 11 p.m. local newscasts reported on Sex Power God and the University’s response Tuesday night.

The question of funding

The crux of O’Reilly’s attack on the University was his claim that student activities fees paid for Saturday’s party.

O’Reilly said on his radio show he was told by Mark Nickel, director of the Brown News Service, that there was “no direct University funding for the party. However, student government fees and ticket sales proceeds paid for the party.”

“I don’t care what these dopey college kids do,” O’Reilly said. “However, if I’m a kid up there paying 136 bucks for a student activities fee and they use some of that money for this, I’m a little teed off. … Keep the college out of it.”

But student leaders familiar with Queer Alliance’s budget said the organization didn’t spend student activities money on Sex Power God.

Undergraduate Finance Board Chair Swathi Bojedla ’07 said all student activities funds allocated to student groups are designated for specific purposes, such as supplies, postage and photocopying. UFB does not fund for-profit events like Sex Power God, Bojedla added.

Queer Alliance received $804.40 in student activities money for Fall 2005, according to the UFB Web site. Bojedla said some of that money – such as the $50 allocated for photocopying – could have possibly paid for advertising for the function.

But a Queer Alliance leader directly involved with the group’s finances said none of the student activities money allocated to the organization was used for Sex Power God.

The only exception was a $60 projector rented from Media Services that was paid for using a general fund available to Queer Alliance as a Category III student group because of an agreement between UFB and Media Services, the Queer Alliance leader said.

The Media Services Web site confirms that “Category III student groups are covered under a flat-fee agreement” between Media Services and UFB.

The $60 used for the projector rental fee came from a Media Services fund provided by UFB for Category 3 groups and wasn’t specifically allocated to the Queer Alliance, Bojedla said.

This year’s UFB operating budget is $795,000, of which $651,701 is available for student groups.

Herald Campus Watch Editor Meryl Rothstein ’06, who reported on Brown’s appearance on Monday’s “The O’Reilly Factor” for The Herald, was interviewed by O’Reilly on his Tuesday radio program.

Rothstein told O’Reilly during her on-air interview that she had learned from Bojedla Monday that no student activities fees paid for the event. O’Reilly responded by reiterating Nickel’s statement that student activities fees and proceeds from ticket sales funded the event. “We gotta go with that,” O’Reilly said.

Communications between the University and Fox News producers were limited, according to Chapman, who oversees the News Service office headed by Nickel. He said a Fox News producer called the University on Friday to inquire about the party and again on Monday.

Referring to the Friday phone call, Chapman wrote in an e-mail to The Herald, “In a brief conversation with O’Reilly’s staff when they inquired about the event, Mark Nickel made it clear that no regular University funds were involved; that ticket sales paid for the event; and that all recognized student organizations have access to a small amount of money through the Undergraduate Finance Board that they are free to use at their discretion.”

The Monday conversation between Nickel and a Fox News producer primarily concerned background information about Sayles Hall, Chapman said. The television segment described Sayles Hall as “historic,” “prestigious” and “ornate.”

Bojedla told The Herald that she had called into “The Radio Factor” during its Tuesday broadcast to clarify the party’s funding. After learning that she was the UFB chair, a staffer told her that he would put her on the air. A half-hour later when the show ended and she hadn’t been put on the air, the staffer told her that O’Reilly declined to take her call, she said.

The University responds

O’Reilly said in his radio show that colleges are liberal and thus don’t care about the behavior of their students.

“These pinheads up at Brown, they are a very liberal administration. Liberal administrators do not make judgments about behavior. Therefore any and all behavior that stops short of violence is permissible on many college campuses,” O’Reilly said. “And now the only reason they care is because they are embarrassed.”

O’Reilly continued by calling Simmons “a pinhead.” “I know her,” he added.

“It couldn’t have been any worse in Baghdad,” O’Reilly told a caller who argued that students were safer on campus than if the party had been held elsewhere. “You would have been safer in Baghdad than on the campus of Brown University.”

Administrators said Tuesday that the University is addressing concerns raised by Sex Power God and other events last weekend, but not because of attention drawn to Sex Power God by O’Reilly.

“The things that we are doing are not in any way in response to what he is saying. It is simply about doing the right thing and doing everything we can to ensure that students have a safe environment and are behaving in a responsible fashion,” said David Greene, vice president for campus life and student services.

Greene’s campus-wide e-mail to undergraduates, which addressed “troubling incidents” that occurred “during or following student organized events” this weekend, was sent before he learned about O’Reilly’s attention to the issue.

Greene said that an investigation of this year’s Sex Power God by student life deans “is beginning now,” using a process already in place to review student groups when there is a sense that “something went wrong.”

The events of this weekend – including a melee on the Main Green where shots were fired early Saturday morning, the night before Sex Power God – “accelerated efforts” to review the University’s 10-year-old social policies, Greene said.

“There is certainly a lot to learn from the events that happened this weekend. We can take this as a moment to educate ourselves as a community about what we can do in the future,” he added.

Greene said he met Monday with other administrators to discuss a process for updating the social policies. Officials have not yet decided how a committee to change the social policies would be composed, Greene said, but student involvement would be significant.

Even though O’Reilly condemned the “debauchery” on Brown’s campus, University officials ultimately just want to make sure that students are safe, Greene said.

The Brown campus hosts hundreds of social, political and cultural events monthly, Greene said, and “many of them would be distasteful to some. Some would be offended by the content of some of the speakers that are here, by some of the cultural events that are here – that’s the nature of a University community.”

For that reason, he said, the University doesn’t sanction student events, adding that students and student organizations “should think hard about their own behavior and how it reflects on them … but that’s up for individual students to think about.”

“We can live with some people who don’t like what goes on here” as long as the University adheres to its core principles, such as ensuring student health, Greene said.

O’Reilly called the “debauchery” at Sex Power God “a sign of the times.” Students in high school and college – even one as “refined” as Brown – face intense pressure from peers to behave inappropriately, he said.

O’Reilly said he received e-mails from many Brown students who don’t agree with Sex Power God but won’t speak out for fear of being mocked or “held up as being dweebs or whatever word they use.”

One caller to O’Reilly’s radio show, who identified herself as a Brown student named Jessica, said she was upset that the University permits events like Sex Power God that condone underage drinking. But when O’Reilly asked if fellow students would agree with her, she said most students are open-minded and wouldn’t mock or scorn people who criticize parties like Sex Power God.

O’Reilly said in his radio program that parents and alums were contacting University officials to complain after viewing his television segment, but how widespread such phone calls were Tuesday is not entirely clear. Greene told The Herald that he received phone calls Tuesday from about three or four parents who saw the television coverage about Sex Power God.

“Any time Brown is in the news, we get some calls,” he added.

As for whether O’Reilly really knows Simmons, University administrators are uncertain. Marisa Quinn, assistant to the president, told The Herald that she was not aware of an acquaintanceship between O’Reilly and Simmons but acknowledged that one may exist.

“No reports” of ecstasy overdoses

In his radio show, O’Reilly quoted The Herald’s report Monday that an unusually large number of students required medical assistance at the Sex Power God party.

“Well, what they were doing is taking ecstasy,” O’Reilly continued. He made the same claim in his Monday television broadcast.

But “no reports indicate that ecstasy was used,” according to Richard Lapierre, manager of Brown EMS.

Lapierre said EMS reports would describe students as “intoxicated,” which implies “impaired consciousness.” Only hospital tests would reveal whether students who required medical attention had taken ecstasy or other drugs, and those records would be kept strictly confidential by officials at the University’s Health Services and Rhode Island Hospital.

Lapierre acknowledged that individual students might have told other people – such as Fox News representatives – that they had used ecstasy, but he reiterated that there is no reason to believe that students who required medical attention Saturday night had taken the drug.

Rothstein asked O’Reilly during her appearance on his radio show about how he knew that ecstasy use at Sex Power God was widespread. “Observation from our people there,” O’Reilly responded.

It is not clear whether “our people” referred to producer Jesse Watters, who taped footage of Sex Power God and appeared on O’Reilly’s television show Monday, or whether other Fox News representatives were present at the party.

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