By Aleksandra Sidorova
The Student Association canceled the show of comedian K-von, the self-proclaimed “most famous half-Persian comedian in the world,” originally scheduled for Tuesday, April 5. The show was canceled due to an influx of student emails to the SA requesting it, alleging that K-von’s jokes are transphobic and racist.
“We want to make clear that we do not tolerate transphobia or any other form of hate or discrimination,” the SA posted on its Instagram page.
It was the only comment SA gave on the situation apart from the announcement of the show’s cancellation. SA President Ahmed Metwaly did not respond to an email requesting an interview.
“We thank everyone for the input and we apologize for not doing our due diligence,” the cancellation notice read.
Students emailed the SA Saturday, March 26, after Andrew Shelak, a senior history major, posted a message from an anonymous follower on his Instagram meme account @burghys_sextape. The message criticized K-von’s jokes about transgender swimmer Lia Thomas and Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.
“[K-von]’s transphobic and obviously racist,” the message read. “He doesn’t belong on our campus and it would be super helpful if you could get the word out.”
K-von responded to the allegations.
“Whether you found them funny or not; [the jokes] are not transphobic or racist in any way. (Even if they were, that’s protected speech according to SUNY policy),” K-von wrote in an email.
K-von left comments on Shelak’s page the next day, calling him a “fake account” with “fake likes” and “fake fans.” K-von said Shelak “launched into a number of attacks” and was “mounting a cancel effort,” as well as that Shelak’s page was “full of obscenities.”
“[K-von] called me ‘phobic against Persians,’” Shelak said. “I don’t understand where that came from.”
Shelak said Instagram logged him out of his meme account due to “suspicious activity” Wednesday, March 30. Shelak said he suspects hacking, but K-von said his team had no involvement in removing the account.
Unable to restore his account, Shelak made a new one called @burghys.onlyfans.
K-von discussed the cancellation of his show on a livestream on his YouTube channel Thursday, March 31. In his discussion, he mentioned six students who “bullied” him, shared the full names and photographs of three including a transgender student’s deadname and one student’s home address. The recorded livestream now has over 3,000 views.
“The attacking swarm made their legal names public on their own pages & profiles voluntarily,” K-von wrote in an email. “Therefore, if they’re willing to harass, bully, threaten, curse, and attack a minority stranger; they must be confident enough to stand by that behavior.”
One of the students K-von named has filed a report with University Police and a Diversity Incident report, both of which are being investigated.
K-von has taken action against students as well. He sent the students’ information to the SUNY Plattsburgh administration and wrote the students a cease and desist message, threatening expulsion.
“The select few radical leftist students now understand that this isn’t just some fun game they are playing,” K-von wrote in an email. “These online harassment tactics do have real world consequences.”
Shelak said the actions may not lead to students being expelled, as bullying and harassment can serve as grounds for expulsion only if directed toward another student, in which K-von is not.
“I’m not worried about anyone getting expelled,” Shelak said. “My friends and I literally sat down and looked through the Code of Conduct. We did not break any rules.”
Shelak condemned K-von’s sharing of students’ private information on his public platforms.
“[K-von] is a grown-ass man just belittling a bunch of college students that go to a college that he’s probably never even heard of until like a week or two ago,” Shelak said.
Besides experiencing “harassment” and “bullying” from students, K-von alleged a violation of the First Amendment granting the right to freedom of speech. He accused the students of participating in “hate speech, bullying, racism and comedyphobia.”
“The petulant tantrums of the few should never create a situation where an artist loses their peaceful freedom of speech,” K-von wrote in an email. “I assure you I have a much bigger crowd that wants to hear me than they do. They know that as well. Which is why they robbed the community of an amazing night of comedy… FOR NOW.”
Shelak said freedom of speech is not freedom of consequence. He said:
“You can say transphobic and racist things legally, but you can’t say that and not expect backlash. And so that’s what we gave [K-von] — we gave him our feedback on the horrible things that he was saying. It’s kind of weird that he can claim freedom of speech on his end, but when we do on our end, it’s not valid.”
Shelak said he felt responsible for the show’s cancellation and subsequent release of students’ private information publicly, but believes he did the right thing.
“I feel guilty that someone’s address got leaked and all our faces are on some guy’s YouTube Live,” Shelak said. “I think it’s my fault. I think it’s [K-von] being, again, a weirdo who would do something like that.”
The incident has impacted students’ opinions on the SA as well as how safe they feel on campus.
“It’s crazy how [K-von] was even hired by the Student Association in the first place, which makes me see how little this campus cares about minorities here,” Isaiah Munden, a freshman running for the SA position of coordinator for student diversity and affairs, wrote on his Instagram page. “My friends, roommates, and classmates shouldn’t be subjected to being the butt of the joke because cis white men want to comfortably hate crime us on a campus that’s supposed to be a ‘safe space.’”
The right call was made. I hope those involved with this decision know that despite the criticisms they may receive. Well done.
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