More on UWEC’s Double Standard

By January 24, 2006

FIRE is in receipt of an e-mail and attachment just sent to faculty at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire by a student organization called Making Our School an Intercultural Community (MOSAIC). As we have discussed on The Torch before, UWEC’s own website calls MOSAIC a “Housing & Residence Life Organization,” which means it is charged to “promote, coordinate and facilitate residence hall activities and to contribute to the general welfare of the total residence hall population.” One of MOSAIC’s activities is to sponsor UWEC’s annual production of The Vagina Monologues. In conjunction with this year’s production, MOSAIC is seeking “Vagina Warriors.” Quoth the e-mail:

Attention Department Chairs:

Please forward the following e-mail to your faculty/staff. MOSAIC (Making Our School an Intercultural Community) is putting on a production of The Vagina Monologues, which is a play that is part of a global movement to stop violence against women and girls. Thank you for your time.

ATTENTION ALL UWEC FACULTY/STAFF:

The purpose of this email is to encourage the UWEC faculty/staff to partake in the upcoming production of The Vagina Monologues. The Vagina Monologues is a play written by Eve Ensler about women’s issues with the purpose of empowering women and raising awareness about ending violence against women. Each year Making Our School an Intercultural Community (MOSAIC), a UWEC organization, puts on the play to raise money to stop violence against women. This year 90% of the proceeds from the events occurring before and during the play as well as the play itself are going to the Bolton Refuge House.

Attached is a form to nominate Vagina Warriors. A Vagina Warrior is any person you believe deserves recognition for their achievements, vision and commitment to ending violence against women. We ask that you nominate any people you think have made a stand to end violence against women in our community and our world. Thank you for your time. If you have any questions please contact any of the email addresses below.

Of course, MOSAIC is completely within its rights to put on The Vagina Monologues and to seek “Vagina Warrior” candidates. But this e-mail is notable in light of UWEC’s continued refusal to truly do away with its ban on RAs’ leading unofficial, non-mandatory Bible (or Koran) studies in their dorms. If you recall, that ban came about because an administrator feared students might feel “judged” if they knew their RAs were Christians (or Muslims). But if students are really so delicate that they cannot deal with knowing that a minor authority figure like an RA calls himself a follower of Jesus or Mohammed, how can they be expected to bear knowing a professor (certainly someone with much more power over their lives than a mere RA) fancies himself a “Vagina Warrior?”

The answer, of course, is simply that UWEC privileges some sensibilities over others. Those who might be offended by the Book of Romans deserve illiberal “protection,” while those who might be bothered by a faculty member’s public embrace of the monologue “Reclaiming C*nt” simply have to deal. The consistent approach—and FIRE’s view—is that both these types of possibly controversial expression (as well as all others protected by the First Amendment) must be allowed. We dearly hope UWEC will soon end its double standard and finally respect all its students’ expressive rights, regardless of their ideology.

Schools: University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire