O’Keefe Video: Cornell Administrator Shreds Constitution Because it is ‘Triggering’

"Free speech means freedom to destroy whatever you want to as well."

Video from investigative journalism outfit Project Veritas (PV) released Thursday morning shows a Cornell administrator shredding a copy of the U.S. Constitution after a PV journalist posing as a student told the administrator the document is “triggering.”

Elizabeth McGrath, Cornell’s Lead Title IX Investigator, is seen in the video feeding pages from a pocket-size Constitution through a paper shredder after the undercover journalist says it would be “therapy” for her. McGrath asks the journalist if she would like to participate, an offer she declines.

The video also shows similar encounters with administrators at Yale and Syracuse University, featuring the same undercover journalist posing as a student. Scenes from the three schools are spliced together, and it seems the undercover journalist relates the same story to each administrator of seeing a group on campus handing out U.S. Constitutions and experiencing subsequent panic attacks and feeling “triggered.”

“… I have my own personal reasons why the Constitution is very triggering for me,” the PV journalist tells McGrath.

In response, McGrath calls the Constitution a “flawed document” and calls those wrote wrote the Constitution “flawed individuals.” The video cuts to her saying the Supreme Court Justices who “voted against same sex marriage were, you know, really out of their minds…”

Later, however, McGrath appears to back away from the student’s negative take on the Constitution, saying, “… handing out [the Constitutions] on campus, I think, is a way for everybody to sort of see how to choose to interpret [them].”

When McGrath suggests the document be left with her, the PV journalists asks if they could shred the document as therapy for her, to which McGrath responds, “Absolutely.”

Right before the shredding, McGrath says, “Free speech means freedom to destroy whatever you want to as well.”

The video is very similar to one released by PV earlier this week, which featured Constitution-shredding at Vassar College and Oberlin College. James O’Keefe and his group PV also notably hit Cornell back in March when it released video of Cornell assistant dean Joseph Scaffido agreeing to an undercover journalist’s suggestion that Cornell would permit students to form a pro-ISIS club and bring “freedom fighters” to speak on campus. Though the video drew strong condemnation from most at Cornell and from locals, it was seen by many on the national stage as indicative of the damaging extent of political correctness on college campuses.

Vice President of University Relations Joel Malina released a statement on the video, reading in part, “Whatever personal views [McGrath] may have shared in order to connect with a ‘student’ who appeared to be in crisis, as an employee of Cornell University she was appropriately focused on addressing the apparently urgent need of the person before her and not on any larger political context.”

At the time of publishing, a request for comment delivered to McGrath had not been immediately responded to. Requests for comment have also been delivered to Cornell Law professor Michael Dorf, who specializes in constitutional law.

Update 11/5: The Cornell Review spoke to James O’Keefe, president of Project Veritas, who said anyone who would shred the Constitution “seriously doesn’t belong on an Ivy League campus.” O’Keefe called the shredding “bizarre behavior” and shows “how far we have fallen in our culture and in the academy.” Finally, O’Keefe called Cornell’s statement in reaction to the video was triggering to him.

The names of Cornellians who perished in the Second World War--defending the Constitution.

The names of Cornellians who perished in the Second World War–defending the Constitution.

21 Comments on O’Keefe Video: Cornell Administrator Shreds Constitution Because it is ‘Triggering’

  1. eh… The constitution is worthless today and why? Even that deist freemason George Washington said it half way right: “[T]he [federal] government . . . can never be in danger of degenerating into a monarchy, and oligarchy, an aristocracy, or any other despotic or oppressive form so long as there shall remain any virtue in the body of the people.” John Adams said it better: “Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God … What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be.”

    • I am sad to say many of my family have graduated from Cornell. It is sad how politically slanted the institution has become.

  2. I normally support Project Veritas in a lot of what they do and believe they do a great job of exposing corruption and disgusting behavior.

    However, in this case this a pure sleaze. The “student” leads each person into going exactly what PV wants to show as if the school was the one making the suggestion and was corrupt.

    Second, the “constitution” is not some sacred document like the bible is. It is a set of ideas that are the foundation of America, but the only “real” constitution sits in a museum in Washington DC. What the school admins shredded were nothing more than plain pieces of paper. There is nothing sacred about that paper or the print on it.

    Third – these school admins were taking the information they had at the time and dealing with it. A supposedly distraught student came in expressing anxiety over the constitution. They looked for a way to sooth the students fears and they found an outlet, one OFFERED BY THE STUDENT!!, and saw no harm in placating the student by shredding the worthless piece of paper that was symbolic of this student irrational fear.

    Shame of you Project Vertitas. This goes way beyond simple sleaze and is down right misleading and bordering on outright lies. Go back to exposing real corruption.

    • Casey Breznick // November 5, 2015 at 11:18 am //

      “A supposedly distraught student came in expressing anxiety over the constitution.”

      So the appropriate response is to shred it?

      What does it matter who suggested it? A rational adult would not do such a thing. Additionally, whether McGrath is lead to do something or not is irrelevant. If the journalist had suggested something more extreme–setting the paper on fire, for example–would you still defend the actions? Probably not, which means your position is one of degree, not of substance.

      An administrator tasked with handling students’ emotional problems should help the student overcome them, not exacerbate them. Suppose this were a real situation: in what way would destroying the very thing giving you emotional problems be any type of actual therapy?

      • You are treating a xerox copy of the constitution as a sacred document. It is not. Yes, I would support burning it. If it got the wingbat out of my office I would have burned it myself.

        Dont apply more value to a xerox copy of a non sacred document than warrants.

        As a Veteran who experienced conflict in defense of our rights and freedoms – I am totally comfortable with shredding this xerox copy. It is meaningless. I have trouble with accepting radicals burning the US Flag. But the very constitution copy you’re crying about says it is everyones right to burn that flag as an expression of free speech. I am 100% confident that this act of shredding is just as protected and even less offensive and meaningless than flag burning.

        Republicans can not have it both ways. We can not demand that the other side respect the constitution, bitching about how liberals want to trash the very ideas that are written inside it, and then turn around and condemn an act that the Constitution clearly protects protects and the Courts have affirmed is free speech.

        Get off your high horse before you fall off and hurt yourself.

        • Casey Breznick // November 5, 2015 at 11:33 am //

          You misunderstood my point. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be able to shred it.

          If that student ran in with a copy of “Mein Kampf” or “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, I would not support shredding or burning them no matter the context. Destroying that which you don’t agree with is never the solution. Again, suppose this was a real situation: in what way is this woman helping this student?

          • Fair enough. I can only respond from the perspective of a Republican. the sad truth is there are plenty of whacked out libtards that are exactly like that student. It is my opinion that people like that may be beyond help.

            Seriously – watch the video again. Focus on the facial expressions of the admins being talked to. I swear to you each of them looks like they would rather be in a million other places at that moment. They each look like they may rather walk naked through a forest of thorn bushes than be sitting there talking to that sad/pathetic student. I really think if you got them alone with a couple drinks they all would have admitted they just wanted her gone.

            For the record – there is a legit form of therapy where a patient can destroy the symbolic representation of their fears and anxieties. Agree with it or not but it is a form of treatment.

  3. Revelation 14:6-7 English Standard Version (ESV)
    6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. 7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

  4. It seems to me that the appropriate response would have been either (a) assume that the student was a normal functioning adult and tell her to go back to class; or (b) refer her to the mental health clinic.

  5. SixthAmendment // November 5, 2015 at 9:43 pm //

    O’Keefe’s comment that anyone who would shred the Constitution “seriously doesn’t belong on an Ivy League campus” is little more than a thinly veiled condemnation of free speech. Free speech means that you support the right of people to say things you personally disagree with. The fact that O’Keefe would suggest that someone who uses their right to free speech to say something he disagrees with doesn’t belong on an Ivy League campus seriously undermines his statements of respect for the Constitution.

    To be fair Cornell has loads of policies that don’t respect free speech as well as other rights guaranteed by the Constitution (which is legal because they are a private institution). Why not condemn Cornell for “anti-bias” speech codes that can be used to kick students of campus for stating an unpopular opinion? Why not condemn Cornell for not respecting the fundamental principle of innocent until proven guilty? Those things show disrespect of the constitution, not their willingness to shred it to try to comfort someone.

    This article is an embarrassment. There are plenty of excellent articles published by the Cornell Review, many of which eclipse the Sun. The fact that you would willingly parade around O’Keefe’s nonsense about Cornell’s willingness to destroy a copy of the Constitution as some ridiculous scandal is beneath you. You’re smarter than this.

    • Casey Breznick // November 5, 2015 at 10:13 pm //

      Alex, I normally agree with your comments on Sun articles, but I have to say your comment here is really an embarrassment. The fact that you would willingly parade around Cornell’s nonsense about its employee’s willingness to destroy a copy of the Constitution because someone thinks it’s triggering is ridiculous appeasement that is beneath you. You’re smarter than this.

      Now that we see how childish your final paragraph was, here are my responses to your first two:
      (1) I interpreted this to mean that this administrator is undeserving of a job anywhere, let alone Cornell. It’s not a statement about curtailing anyone’s freedom of speech. Perhaps you should re-watch the video to understand what is is actually about.
      (2) If you would like to publish an op-ed about these issues, please email it to cornellreview@cornell.edu promptly and I will have it up tomorrow.

      • SixthAmendment // November 5, 2015 at 11:01 pm //

        Perhaps my the last paragraph first comment was unnecessarily reactionary. But I stand by my point that giving O’Keefe a platform is embarrassing and his videos where he uses absurd techniques to trick administrators into saying something stupid are best ignored. You legitimize his video by writing about it and that is what I find embarrassing.

        The content of the article is actually quite reasonable. Trigger warnings are completely ridiculous and I would argue deeply problematic (for the precise reason that everything can be considered a trigger in addition to the more alarming fact that they are the first step at censorship). It’s already hard enough to present a dissenting opinion from the predominant viewpoint without more attempts at censorship.

        I don’t think the administrator’s action in response to the student was unreasonable nor do I think it constitutes appeasement. The administrator in question has the job of comforting students in distress without judging if the distress is reasonable. Her actions did not affect anyone else in any way. Appeasement would constitute banning distribution of the constitution to make the student feel bette, not taking an insignificant action by request of the student that affects no one else

        To address your responses to the rest of my comment:
        (1) I originally interpreted his comment as meaning those with the opinion that shredding the constitution is okay are unfit to have a job here, which I strongly disagree with. This is a common thought process among people here. I’ve read countless times on Overheard at Cornell comments to that effect. The opinions someone has should not affect their employment so long as those opinions are unrelated to their job (for example my political leanings would be irrelevant to my job as an accountant but my belief in creationism would be a good reason not to hire me as a biology teacher). If what he actually meant was that it demonstrates they’re doing their job poorly, then I disagree with his conclusions that they’re doing their job poorly for the reasons I stated previously.
        (2) I’ll pass. I don’t have anything particularly novel to say on the matter of trigger warnings and after reading your comment I think we agree on the free speech issues. I do applaud your willingness to allow a response however.

        • SixthAmendment // November 5, 2015 at 11:05 pm //

          And as an additional clarification:
          I do not condone taking action in response to distress that affects other people without first assessing if the distress is reasonable and the action is reasonable. I do believe that action should be taken if it doesn’t affect anyone else because in that case the action is harmless.

  6. The article and our comments show that “rights” are highly unstable metaphysical entities dependent on the vagaries of history and the present powers that be.

    He came unto his own, and they that were his own received him not.
    But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:11-13

  7. This is an entirely unnecessary article. The Review is a great publication, but this is really beneath you. Just because the words “constitution,trigger warnings, and offense” are involved does not then mean it is anything of substance. You really jumped the gun on this one.

    • Casey Breznick // November 8, 2015 at 11:05 am //

      It’s national news and therefore not unnecessary. The fact that you read this article and watched the video means it is of substance–however small or large. Please think before you comment.

  8. It’s national news” therefore it’s substance and relevant. Great circular reasoning. If you posted an article of President Garret picking her nose, I probably would watch that video and read that article. That doesn’t then mean it’s an article worth sharing or relevant to the publication. Also, not sure why the snarky comment at the end is necessary. You’re an editor of a publication. Act like a mature adult capable of distinguishing reason from personal insult if you want to be taken seriously.

    • Casey Breznick // November 9, 2015 at 9:06 am //

      Sir, the very fact that you watched the video and read the article confers its substance and relevance to you. The fact that it compelled you to write two comments is further indication. At least you make no effort to hide your hypocrisy.

      Just because you (a) don’t like stories which portray Cornell in a negative light and/or (b) don’t like Project Veritas doesn’t mean this video is not relevant or of substance. It clearly shows the damaging and inane extent of administrative appeasement of “triggered” students. That it shows a Constitution, specifically, being shredded is only for dramatic impact; the real point is that anything at all was shredded to appease this “student”.

      By the way, for everyone to see: http://campusreform.org/?ID=6959 Duke and UNC admins have some common sense.

      • You need to stop with the assumptions. I’m not a sir, I’m a woman. I support any effort that shows how delusional Cornell academics and administrators are. But, this is really inane. Regardless, not everyone is against you,Casey;you seem overly antagonistic with these assumptions.

  9. I am sure McGrath took great pleasure in shredding the Constitution. In fact, I would be surprised if she did not repeat her acts in the privacy of her bedroom.

  10. Considering that most of O’Keefe’s “sting” videos have turned out to be deceptively edited, I would wait a bit before jumping on this story. I’m surprised he can still get press coverage. Even Fox News personalities seem to have washed their hands of this clown.

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