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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Brother Jed isn’t just annoying, he’s dangerous

As most of the UA campus probably knows by now, Brother Jed Smock and his wife, Sister Cindy, have once again graced our student body with their presences. The dynamic duo was seen over the last week screaming at innocent students, flailing gigantic picket signs and donning shirts that read, “You deserve rape.”

These confrontational evangelicals are infamous for traveling across the country and visiting dozens of college campuses. Their strategy is simple: spew controversial and unpopular opinions as loudly as possible to receive as much attention as they can. Though most of us are instantly repelled by what they say, some agree. These people, according to Jed and Cindy, should continue to spread their messages.

The choice to attack college campuses is very intentional. On his website, Jed wrote, “If the Son of God had come to the United States in the twenty-first century rather than Israel in the first century, he would have gone to the campuses. The universities control the mind of America.”

College students, Jed said, are not only the future leaders of the world, but are overly impressionable, making them ripe for conversion.

While it’s unclear if Brother Jed is actually having any success converting students, it’s clear that he has been successful at attracting large crowds. Every passing period inevitably contains a clump of dozens of students surrounding Jed.

Some even attempt to goad Jed into arguments, perhaps genuinely trying to change his mind, though it’s surprising that anyone is naive enough to think his opinions are flexible. After all, the man said he believes he’s speaking the words of God.

Students can try to combat some of the hateful rhetoric of Brother Jed and Sister Cindy; that’s their prerogative. But the university has a larger role to play in the protection of its students.

No student — particularly women, LGBT folks, persons of color and those with mental illnesses — should be subjected to the intense animosity that radiates from Brother Jed. Screaming that students deserve rape or are going to hell is more than rude or offensive — it’s dangerous.

According to a 2015 survey by the American College Health Association, approximately 13 percent of college students were diagnosed by a professional for depression in the last year, and nearly 16 percent were diagnosed with anxiety.

Obviously, Brother Jed is not the cause of these numbers, but it’s easy to see that students who have mental illnesses, or have survived sexual assault or other traumatic experiences, could be considerably affected by his behavior.

Ali Cummings, a UA student whose experience with the hate speech has gone viral, wrote, “Walking to class with two of my friends and a grown man dressed as a boy scout yells, ‘close your legs and stop dressing like a whore.’ (I’m in leggings and a big t-shirt). He then proceeded to tell us we are poisoning the world and murdering children.”

There is plenty of debate over freedom of speech and trigger warnings on college campuses. Balancing students’ exposure to new and uncomfortable ideas while keeping in mind their health and safety is an important conversation to have. But the issue of Brother Jed should be a no brainer.

Anyone who goes out of their way to single out students and viciously scream at them about why they deserve rape has no place on this campus. This is an obvious violation of the student code of conduct and while Brother Jed isn’t a student here, our university’s administration should take more steps to ensure all students feel safe on their own campus.

At a minimum — if completely barring his entrance proves to be impossible — the university should hire more mental health counselors, publicize Jed’s presence so students can avoid him and better police the area. Treating him as an unavoidable presence on our campus does a major disservice to those who are most vulnerable. 


Follow Jacob Winkelman on Twitter.


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