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Preacher and founder of Revival Mission Missionaries, Ross Jackson, arrived at the University at Albany this week, openly condemning homosexuals, hip-hop artists, abortion recipients, football players, fans of Katy Perry and Taylor Swift.

Jackson stationed himself on the “Designated Public Forum” in front of the Campus Center from the hours of 2-4 p.m. on both Tuesday and Wednesday, causing a crowd of hostile and upset students.

The preacher identifies himself as a “conservative Pentecostal” and says that he’s been preaching for eight years. He estimates to have spoken at “60 or 70 college campuses so far,” with his main goal to “get the students to turn from their sin.” In addition to touring college campuses, his website notes that he recently conducted missionary work in Kenya this past summer.

Jackson has attracted negative attention at many of his tour stops and in 2014, was arrested in Wilmington, North Carolina for inciting a riot, which his website claims was an “illegal arrest.” He also received a court summons for assault charges at James Madison University on Sept. 17, 2014 but was not detained. This resulted in a no trespass order from the university.

His two days at UAlbany caused an enormous uproar among students with numerous protesters openly voicing opposition to his message. Given his arrest record, protesters were concerned that his presence could possibly compromise their safety on campus, especially given UAlbany’s large LGBTQ population.

Chloe Blaise, a sophomore who identifies as LGBTQ, confronted him directly saying that, “it’s not fair for you to tell an entire group of people that their identity in a sense, means nothing to you because of what you believe in.” Blaise believes that Jackson is a threat to student’s safety because once “one bigot throws the first stone and does the kind of thing that he did today, it gives everyone else the comfort to go out and do that too.”

Not all forms of opposition were directed towards the controversial preacher, with several students addressing protesters themselves. Joshua Castillo, a junior, urged several students to ignore Jackson because Castillo believed it was “the best course of action” and that “by not being there we give him nothing.” Castillo also made it a point to indicate the GoPro camera that was attached to Jackson’s chest.

In addition to the GoPro, Jackson also had his wife whose name, according to his website, is “Samantha,” stationed at the adjacent bench alongside their three young children holding a camera pointed towards the crowd. One concerned student who requested not to be named in this article, stood by Samantha and her children and urged protesters to disperse. The student was worried that “a kid could get wrapped up in this” and have “more problems arise.”

Interestingly enough, Jackson denied compromising his children’s safety and instead, shifted the blame towards “wild” and “out of control” college students.

“I think the students put them in danger when the students get real violent, curse at them, and lose self control,” he said. 

Jackson is certainly not the first preacher to cause commotion on UAlbany’s campus. In fact, according to Karl Luntta, the university’s director of media relations, the campus usually has between one and three preachers like Jackson per year. The reasoning for this lies in the university’s classification as a “public entity” that is funded by New York State taxes.

According the university’s website, this means that UAlbany is legally required “to provide a designated public forum for free speech by third parties.”

Despite having legal obligations, the university is not completely powerless in regards to regulating third parties such as Jackson. Luntta confirmed that it would’ve been possible for the university to reject Jackson’s application to speak on campus although he believes it’s “not a question of accepting or rejecting on past behavior” as much as it is determining the university’s “ability to respond” to a potentially dangerous situation. Luntta also stated that he, along with the rest of the staff who are responsible for granting the permit, was aware of Jackson’s arrest record and decided to allow him to speak in order to “allow freedom of speech to occur on the campus.”

Some students will be relieved to hear that it might be a while until Ross Jackson returns to UAlbany. However, despite his overwhelmingly negative reception, he said, “I hope to come back here sometime. God sent me here and I’ll be praying for these students.”

Whether or not his prayers are answered, it remains likely that students can expect similar speakers to Jackson on campus in the future.

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