Friday, March 28, 2008

Another Campus Witch Hunt

When will these state schools learn?

North Dakota State University is investigating complaints about a campus skit in which a white student in blackface portrayed Barack Obama receiving a lap dance.

The same skit, part of a charity fundraiser held at a campus theater, also featured a depiction of cowboys having sex with each other, witnesses told The Forum newspaper, which first reported the backlash Friday.

“We’re trying to find out the right approaches for accountability, but at the same time try to heal wounds that have occurred and allow the campus to move ahead,” Janna Stoskopf, NDSU’s dean of students, told The Associated Press on Friday.

Let me assist you with finding the "right approaches for accountability", Dean Stoskopf.

The events that were described in the article were in extremely poor taste by today's standards, there's no doubt about it. However, poor taste is protected under the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution. You can make whatever public statements you want, distance yourself and the school community from this 30-second skit segment, even publicly chastise the students for not meeting NDSU's high standards of decorum, or some crap like that.

But the moment you try to punish those students, or impose some "accountability" on them, you're making a constitution-level error. I have no doubt that FIRE would take this case, and even the ACLU might, and you'd end up losing.

Huff and puff, Dean Stoskopf, but don't try to blow down anyone's house. It's all about tolerance, tolerating even those views you find particularly offensive.

I don't know the political bent of that particular university, but I wonder how an anti-conservative, or perhaps anti-Christian, skit would have been received by Dean Stoskopf and the student government.

Update, 3/29/08: The CNN version of this story has the Dean being a little more circumspect:

"One of the issues here is how do we balance what our policies and expectations about behavior are with the issue of freedom of speech," Stoskopf said. "Where does all of that get us?"

It's get you in court if you try to deal with it with a heavy hand.

They'd have been much better off putting out a statement that they're mortified and saddened by the lack of good character displayed by the students involved. The end. But an investigation that's going to take a month and a half? Stupid and wasteful--and doesn't reflect well on NDSU, either.


nebraska girl said...

I would love to know where in the Constitution resides your right to not be offended....can any lefties tell me that one? This country is in so much trouble.

Darren said...

You're not very sensitive, are you? =)

Ellen K said...

I can't remember which fraternity it was, but one of them used to have an "Old South Days" party every spring, where the guys would dress up in Civil War outfits and their dates would wear antebellum hoopskirts. During the 70's several groups protested the definition of "Old South" as code words for racist concepts. I am pretty sure it was just a cover to change the drink of choice from beer to mint juleps and boubon on the rocks, but I don't think the protesters ever really understood it was more about getting drunk than in making a statement.

Fritz J. said...

I'm always amazed at the number of people in academia who are clueless when it comes to what free speech means.

Darren said...

I think I've stopped being amazed and now go straight to exasperated.

Law and Order Teacher said...

I wonder how academia hasn't figured out that students who do this are seeking, oh I don't know, attention? When the admins come off all offended and wounded they do nothing more than give attention to attention seekers. Poor taste certainly is protected speech. I was called some pretty vile stuff when I was a cop and I learned to deal with it. Those who are wounded by this skit are in for a tough time in life with such a thin skin.

Anonymous said...

I have to laugh with Nebraska Girl. My brother is a cop. There has been numerous times where he has stopped someone who exclaims that they are "offended" that he dare pull them over. He reply is always, "Well, there is no law stating that you cannot be offended... now give me your license and registration."

Darren said...

Not yet, there's not.