Rememember James O'Keefe, the young right-wing troublemaker who briefly caused a national scandal that brought down ACORN back in 2009? He posed as a pimp, trying to elicit help from volunteers at the community organization in undercover videos. Yeah, that guy. He's still around, and his latest target is Barry University.
Through his Project Veritas website, he enlisted an honors student named Laura to try and start a pro-Islamic State group at the school, and had her secretly record her interactions with staff and administrators as she went through the process.
Barry University says the video misrepresents the process; any student can apply to start a group but that doesn't mean the university will approve it, they say.
“There has been no formation of an ISIS-related humanitarian aid group at Barry University. No paper work requesting such an organization has ever been filed with the University. If a student or students are interested in forming a recognized student organization, they are advised on the established processes to follow for approval. However, submitting a request does not guarantee approval since the purpose of all student groups must be in accordance with Barry University’s Mission Statement and Core Commitments. Barry University would not approve any group supporting a terrorist organization.”
Barry is a private Catholic university in Miami Shores with around 4,000 students. O'Keefe's group has not released much information on the girl behind the camera other than that she's an honors student named Laura at the school, and it appears she knows most of the Barry staff members quite well.
Laura first meets with Derek Bley, Coordinator for Leadership Development & Student Organizations, and tells him she wants to start a group called, "Sympathetic Students in Support of the Islamic State." Laura however frames the club as a humanitarian organization that aims to prevents members of the Islamic State from committing Islam.
"We're trying to like educate them and give them funding so that they don't have to be impoverished and get involved in acts of violence," she tells Bley. She also specifically mentions helping widows and orphans.
Of course, the conversation is heavily edited, as are most of O'Keffe's productions.
Bley suggests that she change the name, as do Frederique Frage, Associate Director of International and Multicultural Programs, and Daisy Santiago, International & Multicultural Programs Coordinator, who are both briefly shown talking to Laura in the video.
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Bley talks her through the process of starting a club, and gets Professor Pawena Sirimangkala to sign off as the group's advisor.
Of course, as Barry notes in their statement, Laura never actually goes through with the full process of getting the club approved. So basically you have a video of a personable honors student at the school trying to start a perhaps misguided humanitarian group, and the staff telling her how she could try to do so.
Update: Barry's president, Sister Linda Bevilacqua, released a longer letter condemning O'Keefe's video as "categorically false." Here's the letter:
This message is a direct response to a circulating news story that is categorically false. It is immensely hurtful to our university community, to the Dominican Sisters of Adrian, Michigan who founded and continue to sponsor Barry University, and to the international members of the Dominican Order who have suffered as a result of the violence created by ISIS.
Barry University does not and never will allow or authorize the formation of an ISIS-related humanitarian aid group on campus. There has been no formation of any such group at Barry University. No paper work requesting such an organization has ever been filed with the proper authorities at the University.
If a student or students are interested in forming a recognized student organization, they are advised on the established processes to follow for approval. However, submitting a request does not guarantee approval since the purpose of all student groups must be in accordance with Barry University’s Mission Statement and Core Commitments.
The images and video released were edited and spliced to unfairly represent the university and staff being featured. It is reprehensible to think any organization would acquire video and edit in such a way as to denigrate the reputation of Barry University or its staff.
Legitimate journalism outlets should be insulted.
Barry University has a steadfast commitment to the free exchange of ideas. However, in no way do we support or condone the rhetoric or actions of any terrorist group. Barry University’s Mission Statement and Core Commitments - Knowledge and Truth, Inclusive Community, Social Justice, and Collaborative Service - are antithetical to such groups.
Every afternoon at 3 pm the Carillon on our main campus plays “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” a reminder to all of us to pray daily for peace and to advocate for nonviolent solutions to world issues. The intimation or implication that our university would approve or condone the formal establishment of such a group could be regarded as not just shameful but sinful.
Thank you for your support of Barry University and our community.