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Rantz: UW staffer cyberbullied, secretly recorded conservative students she didn’t like

A teacher’s assistant at the University of Washington took to Twitter to bully and then secretly audio record conservative students, upset they were planning to celebrate the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. This incident highlights the concern of conservative students, wondering if they’ll be penalized in class for their political beliefs.

Rebecca Ferber, a graduate student teacher assistant in the Department of English at the UW, tweeted a poll to her followers on October 4: “Sitting on the UW campus next to a table of white male students organizing a ‘Beers for Brett’ event. What should I throw at them?” She gave her followers three options to choose from: her water bottle, her backpack, or “my insides.”

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She was referring to three students, two of whom spoke to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH: freshmen Zach Wildfang of Spanaway and Cameron Edwards of Lake Stevens.

But Ferber wasn’t done.

She then tweeted a photo of the students, taken without their knowledge while eating at the HUB, with the text “This is what they look like” after tweeting to a Seattle bar they had hoped to visit with fellow UW College Republicans.

Tagging Shultzy’s Bar and Grill — which initially asked the club not to visit them due to the “political nature” of their event — Ferber tweeted “@shultzys there is a group of UW students organizing a ‘Beers for Brett’ event for tomorrow if Kavanaugh is confirmed. I hope you won’t allow these men to celebrate the success of putting a rapist on the Supreme Court and enact this kind of violence on the U District.”

There was, of course, no violence or threat of violence.

It wouldn’t end there. Ferber then tweeted to a follower, in part, that “I recorded their entire conversation on my phone and going back through to see if there is any useful information…”

We have decided to name Ferber because she’s in position of power over students and is an employee of the University of Washington.

Ferber did not return multiple requests for comments, and her Twitter account has since become “protected” so you can no longer see her tweets. However, they were screenshot for posterity.

‘It’s a little alarming… to see that’s how they treat students’

Wildfang and Edwards, along with UW College Republicans president Chevy Swanson, were meeting that day for lunch. The conversation about Brett Kavanaugh, they say, was brief – only about two minutes.

“[Ferber] had just posted that … we were sitting there, plotting our celebration and this was before the confirmation, anyway,” Wildfang told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “We had surfaced it, in our group that the tweet had come out. Another student ran a little ‘background check’ on Ms. Ferber and that’s when it came out that she was UW faculty, which was a little alarming as incoming freshman to see that’s how they treat students.

“We were just talking, hanging out, having fun,” confirmed Edwards, who isn’t on social media and learned about this days after it happened from a friend. “It’s pretty ridiculous that people can just dox you whenever they want…”

One of the students, Swanson, filed a complaint with the school. Indeed, UW President Ana Mari Cauce encouraged them to.

While the school cannot “discuss any ongoing complaint or confirm that one is underway,” UW spokesperson Victor Balta said “the process is always aimed at resolving issues quickly and stopping any inappropriate conduct that may be taking place.”

I have confirmed that the UW is currently investigating the complaint, but have yet to meet directly with any of the three purported victims. They are focusing their attention, in part, on whether or not Ferber threw anything at the students. She did not follow through with her threat.

Concerned with classroom retaliation

Neither Wildfang nor Edwards care that Ferber disagrees with them politically, both explaining they enjoy a campus with diverse opinions. It’s that Ferber is in a position of power and clearly has issues with conservatives. While they’re not in any of her classes — though it’s certainly possible they may in the future — this is about basic fairness for conservative students.

“…it is against university policy to penalize or retaliate against anyone for his or her participation in complaint processes,” Balta tells the Jason Rantz Show. “Retaliation is part of every initial conversation that the Community Standards & Student Conduct office has with complainants and accused. The conduct code has provisions that explicitly call out retaliation as cause for further action.”

The Student Code of Conduct is extensive. The UW prohibits “harassment or bullying,” including if it comes through Twitter and it’s controversially vague, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. There’s no policy that Balta knew of that prohibits students from secretly taping one another on a public campus, though Washington is a two-party consent state and none of the students were aware of the recording.

It’s unclear that Ferber’s tweets and conduct would be actionable, in any way, if she weren’t an employee of the UW. But her employment status is of concern. Will this employee fairly judge students who may hold mainstream views she happens to disagree with? Is it acceptable conduct for UW employees to secretly tape, photograph and threaten to throw “my insides” at students?

“Where does it stop?” Wildfang asked, worried that their grades may suffer if they’re in a class with Ferber, or any staff member who acts this way towards students they disagree with. “This particular faculty member is just a grad student, but at what point is this okay?”

The students are not asking for Ferber to be fired. They’d like to make sure, however, political bias never leads to students being unfairly targeted in class.

‘Bring it!’

Both Wildfang and Edwards connected with conservative principles in high school and knew coming to the UW — or any college campus — might put them in tough positions.

“I’m not going to do anything against my character or values, but I’m not gonna go into hiding or give in to the … pressure,” Wildfang explained. “It is assumed that you’ll have the views as everyone else. And if you don’t … you’re the odd man out. You’re not necessarily bullied … more like shunned.”

“I kinda knew I’d be the odd man out,” Edwards agreed. “So far I’ve been flying under the radar. But, if people want to start doing this stuff, I just say ‘bring it!’

Indeed, neither student is going to be silenced. In fact, they’re working on setting up a new club, Students for Self Defense.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday mornings from 6-9 a.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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