In a tragicomic display of the out-of-touch paternalism that is the hallmark of so many college administrations, the Dean of Students at the State University of New York Maritime College (SUNY Maritime) recently sent the following email to all students:
Greetings Students —
With the recent production of college videos promoting the "Gangnam Style" song, we would like to be ahead of the curve and prevent any mishaps that would cause embarrassment to the college and/or you, the student. Please see the guidelines below, which are effective immediately. Please feel free to contact my office should you have any questions.
The guidelines include a prohibition on any videos containing any "inappropriate" or "indecent" materials and also require students to allow SUNY Maritime to use and even edit any student-made videos for its own promotional purposes.
Needless to say, the university cannot—consistent with its First Amendment obligations—prohibit students from using their own time and resources to record "inappropriate" videos, whatever that means in application. (Despite the "maritime" name and its "regiment of cadets," SUNY Maritime is not a military school, and its students have the First Amendment rights of public university students.)
But beyond the free speech issue here, this is such a perfect example of the paternalistic attitude that drives the overregulation of students’ lives at so many colleges and universities today. In the administration’s mind, SUNY Maritime students couldn’t possibly be trusted to make a successful video parody—despite the fact that cadets at West Point and the U.S. Air Force Academy, as well as midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, have all produced funny and well-received Gangnam Style parodies (all of which I watched this morning for "research purposes").
Sometimes one can only laugh at the ridiculousness of the way some colleges and universities treat their students, almost all of whom are adults, and this incident provides us with the perfect opportunity.
And SUNY Maritime students, we hope to see your Gangnam Style parody on YouTube soon!