The QueQue: Tower of Hope's whistleblower alleges school refused protections, Wentworth files defamation suit
Published: May 23, 2012
Tower of Hope's whistleblower alleges school refused protections
With school ending, there's a lesser-heard tale from Texas A&M San Antonio's "tower fight" worthy of airing. It hinges on the experience of adjunct criminology professor Sissy Bradford, who challenged the constitutionality of crosses on the Tower of Hope at the entrance to the South Side campus last year. While the short-lived spat got plenty of coverage, unheard has been the zealous blowback, threatening emails, and unnerving letters Bradford received for taking her unpopular stand.
Bradford's complaint to remove the religious symbol from the entrance to a publicly-funded university campus fast got support from groups like Americans United, and tower owner VTLM Group eventually removed the crosses in mid-November last year. By Nov. 27, Bradford got an email asking, "As a professor, do you have the right to live?" before the unknown author rambled on to describe Bradford sealed in a coffin. "After that you will reign with your father satan," the message continued before suggesting she wed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. On top of hateful emails, Bradford was waylaid by a local TV news crew on campus (aided by one of her students, who Bradford said was an intern at the station).
Feeling increasingly unsafe, Bradford went to campus police to report harassment. Officers at the University Police Department, she said, refused to take her statements, and as the weeks went by friendly students took to walking Bradford to and from her car in the absence of any campus security. Later, administration refused her access to an office for adjunct faculty, she said. Bradford took her complaint higher up to A&M at College Station and was finally able to file a statement with UPD on Dec. 5. Her two-page Voluntary Statement reads, "I am being stalked & harassed & threatened by student(s) & community members because I am not a Christian. There exists a clear & prolonged pattern of unwanted communication, contact, threats, & invasion of privacy."
UPD's Sergeant Roberto Lopez told the Current a case was opened into Bradford's complaints but has since been closed. However, the university's administration has refused to release records related to the investigation of Bradford's complaint as requested by the Current, appealing the matter to the state Attorney General. Likewise, the school's public information officer refused to comment.
Meanwhile other students appear to have shared in Bradford's harassment. When student Kirsten Verdi spoke up in Bradford's defense in class, a fellow student told her simply, "You need to be beaten," she said. "It got so bad that I complained over and over again," said Verdi. "Call me hypersensitive or whatever, but it got to the point that I was afraid to go to my own graduation in December because of some of the statements people made."