The Bottom Line was alerted this morning of social media posts made by advisor Melissa Martz in the past several days. One of the posts, regarding the Black Lives Matter protest in Bedford County, Pennsylvania earlier this week, reads, “Antifa and BLM threatened to burn the Bedford County, PA courthouse tonight. At first, I thought…. This post isn’t real. Must have been. Guess they shouldn’t mess with a bunch of country boys! Call went out for patriots/hunters to show up and it looks like they got it covered. Will you answer the call when it comes to your doorstep?” It is worth noting, plans of arson were rumored and no fires were reported in Bedford County. A second post reads, “…it’s safe everywhere if you ain’t scared to pull the trigger.”
While the views expressed in her posts do fall within her right to freedom of speech, they are not aligned with the views of this organization. For this reason, the Executive Staff met in an emergency meeting this evening and unanimously voted to remove her as our advisor. As leaders of our independent student news organization, it is within our rights to remove an advisor who we feel does not effectively guide by our principles and views.
Throughout the summer, we were actively covering the Black Lives Matter protests throughout our community. At both Cumberland and Frostburg protests, we saw members of our campus community standing together to protest the inequity Black people continue to experience in our country. To think that a call “for patriots [and] hunters to show up” to these peaceful protests and to incite violence against individuals exercising their right to freedom of assembly is a discomforting thought.
Though we arrived at this decision unanimously, we did not arrive at it easily. As representatives of an organization that promotes freedom of speech and expression, we grappled with whether her remarks were something on which we could take action. Nonetheless, we are also representatives of an organization that promotes freedom of assembly, which is exactly what the protestors in Bedford County, PA, were doing when one was shot on Monday evening. As representatives of an organization that serves the needs of our diverse campus community, and an organization that speaks out on actions of hatred, bigotry, and violence, we felt it was necessary to remove Martz as an advisor.
As an advisor and instructor to many students on campus, we feel that her posts have cause for concern. Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Artie Travis, the Office of Student Affairs, and the Office of Student and Community Involvement have been consulted.