February 14, 2006

The University needs to realize private jokes have no real victims

The administration acted shamefully by excessively punishing two Hitchcock students for using racial epithets in jest. It is disturbing how the administration seems unconcerned with the intent of the statements and whether they caused anyone actual harm. The students whose whiteboard was written on were not in the least bit victimized. They understood that those words, in their context, were a joke. The only person who had a right to be offended by the words “Juan Pablo Velez hates niggers and kikes” is Juan Pablo Velez.

Some people falsely argue that their behavior was unacceptable because they were within a “housing community.” Within housing or in the greater University community there is good reason to protect people from being victims of racism, sexism, etc. Third parties, however, do not have a right to feel victimized and punish others because they don’t like how others communicate among themselves. While in housing, I would frequently hear people playing rap music that contained homophobic, anti-Semitic, and sexist homophobic lyrics. The civilized reaction, if someone is offended by such lyrics, is to ask them to lower it, not kick them out of housing and pretend they were harassing the gay Jewish girl who lived down the hall and lent them the CD.

The entire student body should be scared by the administration’s complete disregard for context and intent. In a letter written by Steven Klass, vice president and dean of students, he shows us just how on top of things he was by writing:

“I received a report this morning that, last night, racist and anti-Semitic remarks were written on a whiteboard attached to the door of a student’s dorm room…I am working closely with the appropriate University offices in pursuing this as a serious incident of racial and ethnic harassment. I would like to remind students who have witnessed or have been the victim of this or similar incidents that you have a variety of support resources available.”

Anyone reading this is led to believe that the administration was protecting someone from real harassment. We now know that the author of the statement was a friend of the “victims” and that neither person living in the room was at all offended. In fact, both of them can be found defending the author of the comments and criticizing the University’s overreaction in this past Tuesday’s Maroon.

The administration does a disservice to our community when it misleads us into thinking that there were actual instances of racism and that they were fighting them. I sincerely hope that members of this University will come to recognize the dishonest self-promoting way in which Steven Klass and the administration handled this situation. Moreover, I hope that no one on this campus is so deluded and ignorant about what real racism is that they actually believe that kicking these two first-years out of housing will create a more tolerant, open-minded university.