Friday, April 10, 2009

Universities and Veterans

Penn State quickly ditches a training video that stereotypes veterans as "angry":

"What if it was 'Oh, the gay one,' or 'Oh, the Asian kid?' " asks Maggie Kwok, head of the Penn State Veterans Organization in an interview with the Daily Collegian, PSU's student newspaper. She is referring to a "training video," prepared by the university's Counseling and Psychological Services office, depicting "worrisome student behavior."

The office swiftly removed the video when it prompted a kerfuffle, but the PSU College Republicans preserved it on YouTube. It's a fascinating documentation of academic prejudice...

The video's salient stereotype, however, is not of veterans as thickheaded but as angry...

All the videos in the series concern students behaving in ways that are creepy but not necessarily dangerous. In the first, a young woman tells her professor that a young man in her class has an unreciprocated romantic interest in her and has been making her feel uncomfortable. "It's not like he's stalking me or anything," she allows, but then she describes behavior that some may reckon crossed that line.

The second depicts a female student who is behaving erratically for reasons that are unspecified--perhaps trauma, mental illness or drug abuse.

The third shows a classroom discussion on news coverage of violent crime. When the conversation turns toward school shootings, a black-shirted male student in the back row remarks that such violence "doesn't make sense to me. Why shoot at the other students? Personally, I'd blow up Old Main or shoot up the administration. That's where the real problems are."

The video about The Veteran is similar to the others, in that all depict abnormal behavior by young people who probably are normal, but are immature or temporarily impaired. But the characters in the other videos are all completely generic, with no distinguishing characteristics other than their sex. Only The Veteran is fleshed out enough even to be a stereotype. (boldface mine--Darren)
Contrast Penn State's consideration for veterans with that of California's universities and the Troops To College program.

Update, 4/11/09: I need to flesh this out a little more. Here's what I sent on the topic to an email list of which I am a member:

It's clear that the people who made this video have a definite bias, one so strong that they don't even see it. THAT is the problem here. It would have been "insensitive", or stupid, if they'd included other stereotypes--the thugged-out black kid who looks threatening, the jock who won't take no for an answer, the Muslim who won't accept the authority of a woman professor. That they singled out only one, the veteran, is what makes this especially galling. Had they *only* singled out one of the other stereotypes I listed above, do you think there would be as much silence on this issue as there is with the veteran?


Neko said...

Initially, I thought you might have been reading too much into this. Then I read the complete article and watched the video. I was wrong.

I particularly loved the condescending shaking of the head and knowing smiles between the admin and the professor when discussing the veterans poor grammar.

Darren said...

I'm glad you took read and watched for yourself rather than just criticizing me for what you *thought* I was doing.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Right wingers worry more about the PTSD stereotype than veterans who suffer from PTSD.

Darren said...

Nice dig. Typical of lefties.

Anonymous said...

It's true though. Have you ever posted about vets who suffer with PTSD? I doubt it.

Darren said...

There are many things I haven't posted about--but great job turning this around and somehow making me the bad guy.

Now, do you want to respond to the topic of this post?

allen (in Michigan) said...

I suppose if you're biases are overt enough to get you into trouble one response is to go on the offensive with a ham-handed effort to show how splendidly reasonable and evenhanded you are.

I'm surprised the video didn't wind up with the vet sobbingly confessing his war crimes, announce his intention to join Code Pink while sitting at a campfire with the female instructor, the black department head and Janine Garafolo.

Cue the singing of "Kumbaya" and the long, reverse-zoom showing the group in a forest, under a starry sky.

The only thing missing are the silhouettes of the characters from Mystery Science Theater 3000 mocking the dialog.

Ellen K said...

It's pretty obvious from my various readings and postings that we have a huge chasm in our political and personal theories in this country. What is most annoying is that the people in charge are the most polarized at either end of the spectrum. Most of us are somewhere in the middle. If this video had showed a black kid walking pimp style down the hallway and talking jive, the NAACP would have that campus facility shut down with protests. So where are the veterans groups? Why aren't they lambasting this university, the state that funds it and the elected officials that approve those expenditures? We can no longer suffer in silence. It's time to start speaking out.