Towson University Protests After Building Is Dedicated To Controversial Professor

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Van Bokkelen Hall (Credit: Van Fisher/ Patch)

TOWSON - Towson University dedicated the Van Bokkelen Hall auditorium to controversial professor and adviser of the embattled chapter of Turning Point USA, Richard Vatz.

The dedication ceremony on Friday was met with protests by TU faculty and students, who say that Vatz has been an outspoken proponent of hateful speech and white nationalism.

Vatz, a 48-year faculty member in the Department of Instructional Leadership & Professional Development, is being honored for his tenure as a rhetoric professor and frequent donations to the university. He has stated his intentions to retire from the university in January, and the plans to name Van Bokkelen hall in his honor were made five years ago.

In his remarks at the ceremony, Vatz touted his teaching awards and said he hopes the dedication carries on his legacy.

“When students know my name is associated with this room, I hope you’ll think of the room as representing a longtime teacher who has won many teaching awards, as many as any other faculty member,” Vatz said.

Vatz has frequently found himself in hot water due to his outspoken support for far-right-leaning student groups on campus. He is the faculty sponsor of Towson’s chapter of Turning Point USA, a conservative student group that was recently embroiled in controversy due to leaked messages that showed group members using racial and homophobic slurs.

Vatz also sparked controversy in 2012 when he was the faculty sponsor for the now-defunct Youth for Western Civilization student group. He stepped down as the sponsor of Youth for Western Civilization after members of the group chalked “white pride” on several university sidewalks, and the group was disbanded.

The Towson Towerlight reports that at least eight faculty members spanning several departments protested the ceremony, including Academic Senate Chair Desirée D. Rowe.

Protestors lined Van Bokkelen hall with red and yellow warning tape and drew large Xs on the entrances. Protestors also hung red tape that read “Warning: Entering this space could be interpreted as a political act” across the wall over the event’s food table.

Members of Towson’s chapter of Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), a far-left learning student group, stood at the building’s entrance and handed out fake event programs to attendees. The mock event programs contained controversial quotes from editorials written by Vatz and some of Turning Point USA’s leaked messages.

One of the passages included in the mock event program came from a 2018 article on redmaryland.com, where Vatz expressed his support for embattled then supreme court appointee Brett Kavanaugh.

“I think that Kavanaugh was likely in a room with her and that he touched her sexually, consensually or not, likely not. I think she exaggerated her fear for her life,” Vatz wrote. “I think her resentment, pushed and encouraged by her psychologist, has increased exponentially over the years, causing part of her inability to stop this memory from ruining her life.”

The Towson Towerlight spoke with Vatz about his opinions about the protests, and he says he supports first amendment rights but wishes the demonstrators were “more informed.”

“I do think they ought to come more informed before they protest, and literally nobody has contacted me by email, contacted me personally, and I’m always willing to talk to people,” Vatz said. “Which means they don’t have the courage of their convictions because if they had the courage of their convictions, they would be willing to talk about it. So, I support the right to protest, but I just wish they were a little more informed.”

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I didn't know him. Proof, perhaps, that what you do and which way you lean follows you, whether you know it or not. At the end of the day, or at the end of our careers, this should make all of us think a little more about ourselves. 

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I had Dr. Vatz as an instructor - great teacher and a great guy.
Since the groups being criticized are labeled as "far-right leaning," why aren't the Young Democratic Socialists labeled as "far-left?" 

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