LETTERS

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May 18, 2001

Letters to the Editor

Seeing the controversy

To the Editor:

Now that the David Horowitz mess has yielded all of the predictable condemnations of those students who protested the event, it's time to address some overlooked issues -- the first being the flimsiness of Jason McCabe's claim that the College Republicans invited Horowitz in order "to create a dialogue." McCabe was either being naive or disingenuous: as shown by the public record and by Horowitz's own admission, in virtually no venue where he has appeared has Horowitz's presence contributed to genuine dialogue. More honest were the flyers that the College Republicans posted all over campus inviting everyone to come "See the controversy." They set out to stage a controversy, and a controversy is precisely what they got.

Nor did anything done by those students who raised a ruckus in the auditorium amount to a stifling of Horowitz's ideas. Horowitz's "Ten Reasons" ad has run in both campus newspapers and has appeared on flyers posted all over campus. In addition, Horowitz has made his case on television, on the radio, and in newspapers all over the country. For several months now his has been the unavoidable voice on the question of reparations. Even had the protesters intended to stifle Horowitz's ideas (and I see no evidence in Mercy Oni's letter to the Chicago Weekly News that such was her intent), it would have been impossible under the circumstances to do so.

With all of this in mind it's also difficult to sympathize with the puzzlement and disappointment expressed by Viewpoints contributor Nirav Shah that the event didn't go better. Anyone paying the slightest attention to the news should have known what was in the cards. Complaining that the protestors prevented listeners from hearing Horowitz is a bit like going to the circus and complaining that the acrobats are interfering with your contemplation of the lion tamer. The entire event was a spectacle, and the protesters were pretty much doing what they were invited to do. And Shah should be chided for playing the race card by suggesting that because the protesters were black they were treated more "charitably" than they would have been had they been white. Shah's "almost whimsically" is a coward's dodge. If he has evidence that students were subject to racially differential treatment he should produce it. Otherwise he should shut up.

Prior to Horowitz's visit my advice to students was to ignore him. He's a publicity hound and the best way to deal with such types is not to give them the time of day. Even so it's difficult to blame the protesters. Having been forced to hear Horowitz's side of the story for several months it perhaps made perfect sense to go and illustrate the fact that Horowitz had no intention of hearing theirs.

Kenneth Warren

Professor of English

Don't ask me to smile

To a man on the street, soliciting donations on the street:

I was walking past you today. As I approached, two men were walking of ahead of me, and you shouted after them, or so I assumed, "Would you like to donate some change?" Then I heard, "At least smile!" And I instantly knew that you were not speaking to those men, but to me. No one ever commands a man to smile.

Already past, culturally trained not to make a scene, rendered inarticulate by anger, and very late to class, I decided not to stop. As I thought about it during the day, however, I realized that I had to say something. This is not the first time it has happened, you see, and this is simply the point where I realized I needed to hold my ground. Men on the street seem to feel free to order women to smile, casual acquaintances and complete strangers alike (my friends know better). Many would say that I am overreacting, and so I would like to lay out for you why this matters, and why it enrages me.

I do not smile as I walk down the street for a number of very good reasons. Smiling invites someone to talk to you, and inviting a stranger to talk to you is always a dangerous proposition for a woman. One of the traits a rapist looks for in assessing whether a woman will be an easy target is the sort of lack of confidence and eagerness to please that a constant, ingratiating smile suggests. I am usually absorbed in my own thoughts, which, being addressed to myself, I have no need to display for communication with another. Thus my expression is liable to be fairly blank. Finally, and most essentially, I am not walking down the street for anyone's pleasure but my own. If you want to look and admire, fine by me. I've been known to regard a passing male with plenty of appreciation more than once. Don't, however, feel as if you had any right to draw me into or make me serve your fantasy.

The root of my anger lies in the control over my body such a command tries to exert. However small a fraction of myself this may seem to you, my smile is mine, and no one has any right to it but me. Rape is one person's exertion of their right to control the body of another, and thus in some sense it is this small infraction of an ordered smile writ large. This is not to say that I think you are necessarily at risk for becoming a rapist. It is to say that the sorts of attitudes that permit a complete stranger to demand that I satisfy his desires are the sorts of attitudes that create a culture where one out of every three women will be raped during her lifetime. Read that statistic again and weep. A woman was raped in the time it took me to walk from one end of your block to the other, and several have been in the time it has taken me to write this letter.

I hope that you now understand why such an apparently harmless phrase angers me enough to color the rest of my day. I'm asking you to consider what you say, and what you feel gives you the right to say it. Then perhaps you will consider becoming part of the solution to the enormous problem of violence against women, rather than a subtle, and I assume unconscious, supporter of it. I hope my letter changes some things for you, and whether it does or not, I feel better for having written it. In the end, this is about a woman's right to control and defend her own space.

Nora Niedzielski-Eichner

Start taking some responsibility

To the Editor:

Last Wednesday President Randel was considerate enough to hold his third "Brown Bag Lunch" in the Reynolds Club. The lunches, which are meant to serve as a sounding board for the University community, give students direct access to the head of the University in a very casual question/answer forum. President Randel answers questions, tells stories, and openly explains University decisions and policy to anyone who attends. Therein lies the problem and the reason why I think the undergraduate body at this school needs to take a serious look at itself.

I went to the first Brown Bag Lunch in the South Lounge and the room was packed and brimming with political energy. Wonder why? The administration had just decided to close down Breckinridge and Max Mason. Students were furious, maybe rightly so, but nonetheless there was a public outcry that was yet another example of the "evil empire" making huge decisions without consulting any students. The complaint, so I've heard, for years has been that the administration does not communicate with students and especially undergraduates. I, however, have this to say: communication is a two- way street.

So, like I said, I attended last week's Brown Bag Lunch, and do you know how many undergraduates were there? Two. There were probably only five or six people in total. Not only was President Randel there, but so was Dean Turkington and Assistant Dean Michel. What a wonderful opportunity to talk with the administration! My parents are both professors, and frankly I don't know many other universities where the president takes time out of his afternoon to have regular open meetings with students. In fact, I think we undergrads take President Randel for granted. We demand his time and attention as if he were the dean of the College and not the presi,dent of a major research university. However, my point is this: Open communication with the administration requires just as much out of us as it does out of them. You can't get angry when there's a decision you don't like if you're not willing to spend the time and effort making sure the administration knows what you want. Two undergrads out of four thousand is absolutely pitiful. It makes us look like a bunch of little kids. If I were President Randel, I probably wouldn't want to hold any more open forums if students weren't going to take advantage of (or appreciate) them. I can't speak to the past, but the truth is that President Randel and his administration are doing a good job. Not only has Randel made great strides to heal old wounds, but he as also done a great job trying to open lines of communication with students. Look people, if you're not willing to put forth the effort and take on the responsibility, then stop complaining.

Chris Tepper

Student in the College

You're in a catagory by yourself and it ain't a good one

To the Editor:

I read with intrigue John Lovejoy's article of May 15, since I too have been compiling a list of "sexual categories" for people at this University. I thought Mr. Lovejoy would particularly enjoy this one:

The Embittered Lonely Male

To compensate for his lack of sexual interaction, this type is often found writing bitter diatribes that blatantly reveal his own frustration and male inadequacy. Instead of addressing his own troubles, he would rather blame women for his many problems in a failed attempt to be clever. Such behavior must closely be watched, since this type of individual can at any time "blow up," releasing the sexual energy of a thousand wasted tissues. The Embittered Lonely Male enjoys categorizing women into particular stereotypes, which is absurd since he can file all of them under the same one: Women Who Won't Sleep with Me. The activity of this type of individual is more accepted in a high school atmosphere than in college, and he should be castigated and admonished for such a blatantly bizarre contribution to the Viewpoints section of the Maroon.

Ian "Phat Bluntz" Priest

Third-year in the College