A member of the “Black Menaces,” a group of Black Brigham Young University (BYU) students who share video interviews with white classmates on social media, recently experienced confrontation and harassment while conducting an interview. Sebastian Stewart-Johnson, a senior studying political science, was recording an interview when a BYU staff member approached and threatened to call 911 if he didn’t stop. The staff member eventually left, but it’s unclear if she made the call. Afterward, Stewart-Johnson was followed another student who had been recording him before the confrontation. The student continued to follow him and obstruct filming for 15 minutes.
The incident was captured in a video shared the Black Menaces on their social platforms, where Stewart-Johnson can be seen asking the student why he felt it was acceptable to follow people. In response, the student criticized their journalism, referring to them as the “worst piece of journalism” he had ever seen. The Black Menaces is a group of BYU students aiming to highlight the challenges faced people of color on campus, as Black students comprise just 1% of the university’s population.
BYU has a filming policy that prohibits filming for promotional, commercial, advocacy, or similar purposes. However, individuals may take unobtrusive video and photographs for personal use as long as they don’t disrupt campus programs or activities. Stewart-Johnson clarified that he does not generate income from ad revenue on the Black Menaces’ videos. The Cougar Chronicle, a student-run newspaper unaffiliated with the university, claimed that its editor-in-chief was the student who followed Stewart-Johnson and that he was encouraged the unidentified staff member.
Stewart-Johnson expressed frustration and concern, believing that a white student conducting similar interviews would not have faced such incidents. He felt unsafe and left campus for two days as a result. BYU’s Office of Belonging reached out to him to discuss his concerns, and he filed a report with the office. However, he expressed a lack of trust in their ability to address the issue.
Despite the negative experiences, Stewart-Johnson resumed filming after taking a break, and he acknowledged that several people apologized to him for the incidents. The Office of Belonging at BYU aims to help students feel a sense of belonging and community on campus.