How Can You Tell When a University President is Lying?

When he says things that he knows are drastically at odds with reality. Were you expecting some other answer?

Colorado College, in scenic Colorado Springs, has an inspirational endorsement of free expression on page 34 of its Academic Policies and Procedures handbook:

On a campus that is free and open, no idea can be banned or forbidden. No viewpoint or message may be deemed so hateful that it may not be expressed.

[If that seems familiar: it's a direct, unattributed plagiarism quote from the American Association of University Professors' statement "On Freedom of Expression and Campus Speech Codes".]

Which is fine, in theory. In practice, it took Colorado College about 30 minutes to examine their deepest feelings about free expression on campus, and say: Just kidding!

The "Feminists and Gender Studies Interns" at CC print up a newsletter entitled the "The Monthly Rag." You can read a poorly-reproduced copy here, but here is, I think, a fair summary:

The flyer included a reference to "male castration," an announcement about a lecture on "feminist porn" by a "world-famous prostitute and porn star," [the aging Annie Sprinkle, for those of you with fond memories of Wild Pussycats and Satan was a Lady] an explanation of "packing" (pretending to have a phallus), and a quotation from The Bitch Manifesto.

CC student Chris Robinson, and an unnamed accomplice, perhaps taking that "free and open" thing a bit too seriously, published a parody of "The Monthly Rag" entitled "The Monthly Bag" (PDF here) under the pseudonymous "Coalition of Some Dudes". Summary:

The flyer included references to "chainsaw etiquette," the shooting range of a sniper rifle, a quotation regarding a sexual position from the website menshealth.com, and a quotation about "female violence and abuse" of men from the website batteredmen.com.

Which brings nothing to mind more than the very old, but very appropriate, joke:

Q: How many feminists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: That's not funny!

As Chris Robinson relates in a student newspaper op-ed (reproduced here):

The appearance of our satire was handled in a manner which in many ways approximated to, say, the way Wahhabbi Islam hunts down apostasy. Apostasy, for the interested party, is the ultimate crime in Islam: an apostate is one who has known the true faith and deviated from it, and his punishment for this shall be death.

The college opens for business at 8 am. By 8:30 am on the day of publication, I observed security forces tearing down our satire. Wow. Who would have the power and zeal to initiate such a crackdown? I'm not sure, but all I can say is the Chinese Communist Party would be proud.

CC's president, ex-Ohio governor (and Democrat) Richard Celeste apparently issued a mass-emailing of denunciation aimed at the parody, and demanded that the authors present themselves for judgment. They did, and found themselves before the dread Student Conduct Committee. Relates Chris Robinson:

I'd love to tell you more about that proceeding, but I'm not at liberty to do so. I will tell you this, though: it was deadly serious. It was an open-ended procedure which could have led to any punishment up to expulsion. It was a corrupt and biased proceeding which inspired in me a terror I've not felt for many years, and constituted a cruel and unusual punishment in and of itself, which I suspect was its intent.

The thrilling climax:

Two weeks after their hearing before the student conduct committee, Vice President for Student Life/Dean of Students Mike Edmonds finally wrote to the "Coalition of Some Dudes" students on March 25, stating that they had been found guilty of "violating the student code of conduct policy on violence" and that as a punishment, they would be required to hold a forum to "discuss issues and questions raised" by "The Monthly Bag." Although Edmonds acknowledged that the intent of the publication was to satirize "The Monthly Rag," he wrote that "in the climate in which we find ourselves today, violence—or implied violence—of any kind cannot be tolerated on a college campus." Apparently, according to Edmonds, "the juxtaposition of weaponry and sexuality" in an anonymous parody made students subjectively feel threatened by chainsaws or rifles.

Which is ludicrous on its face. If it hadn't been the chainsaws and rifles, it would have been something else. The policies at CC are vague and arbitrary enough to encompass any sin the administrators feel like punishing.

The canonical behavior of university administrators in such situations is overreaction, followed (if necessary) by ass-covering obfuscation and sanctimony. President Celeste is quoted at Inside Higher Ed engaging in the latter:

Richard F. Celeste, Colorado College’s president, said via e-mail: “Colorado College values and fosters freedom of expression, and in discussions with students regarding “The Monthly Bag,” has encouraged further dialogue about freedom of speech issues on campus. The students involved in creating this publication were found to have violated the college community’s standards, but they were not sanctioned or punished. Instead, they were urged to engage the college community in more inclusive dialogue, debate and discussion on freedom of speech, and through a letter to the editor of the student newspaper and other actions, they are doing so.”

Adam Kissel at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education's (FIRE) blog, The Torch, calls bullshit on that:

This statement is false. The students were sanctioned and punished. Take a look at their letter of sanction by Dean of Students Mike Edmonds. Having a guilty finding on one's record is a punishment. Having the letter put in each student's file is a punishment. Being required to hold a "forum" is a punishment. Being publicly shamed in a mass e-mail from the president is a punishment.

Here's hoping that very bad things—nonviolent, of course—happen to Celeste and Edmonds as a result of their contemptible behavior.

FIRE's go-to page on this case is here, from which most of the links in this article were obtained.


Last Modified 2012-10-12 8:29 AM EDT

Twelve Mile Limit

[Amazon Link]

This is number nine in Randy Wayne White's Doc Ford series. It opens with a seeming tragedy: while four friends are scuba diving a wreck in the Gulf of Mexico, their boat sinks. One makes it to a navigational buoy and is rescued by the Coast Guard; the others are not found after an exhaustive search.

That would probably be that, aside from speculation, if one of the lost divers was not a close friend of the Dinkin's Bay crew, including Doc Ford. The surviving member saw just enough to raise a glimmer of hope in Doc's mind, and he uses his contacts and wiles to pursue the real story. The journey is tough but gripping, the climax grim.

This is (yet another) darn good yarn. Were I to quibble, I'd quibble that Mr. White seems at time to be padding things out to a contractually-agreed word count with digressions, flowery description, and a couple irrelevant subplots. But no matter, because White probably makes it more entertaining than anyone else could. You can actually learn stuff here, not just marine biology, Doc's adopted profession, but also self-defense, meteorology, South American politics, and on and on.

It seems that, in this book, Doc has achieved a breakthrough in introspection, finally making progress in integrating his past life in supersecret service to America with his current persona as a marine biologist. We'll see how this plays out.


Last Modified 2012-10-12 8:28 AM EDT

That Was Quick

From the March 29 Wall Street Journal article on the wonderful Norah Jones:

For now, with her film finished and her next album a ways off, one ambition is more immediate: "I just want to be home enough this year to get a dog."
From today's New York Times article on Ms. Jones' March 30 concert:
With so many collaborators on hand, her solo set didn’t last long. She sang “Cold, Cold Heart,” the Hank Williams standard, along with an impish new original about her dog.
Ah. Glad that dog thing worked out for her.

Elementary

This well-designed game checks to see how well you remember your chemical elements. It's educational, not a waste of time at all! I got 51, and some of the ones I missed—well, I shouldn't have. (Via BBSpot, whose proprietor claims a score of 53. Hmph.)


Last Modified 2017-12-05 7:10 AM EST