‘Stupid Drunks,’ Beware of the Speech Police

By September 11, 2009

Last year it was "Hillary is a foxy lesbian" written on a student’s whiteboard at Harvey Mudd College during the Democratic primary season. That was enough to trigger an e-mail to students and others across the Claremont Colleges—and notification of the campus police. This is because the official "bias-related incidents" policy of the five colleges requires that even the most minor of so-called bias incidents will automatically trigger a campus-wide e-mail, even when the expression is quite obviously protected as free speech.

Ludicrous? You bet. This was just one of many such outsized reactions in 2007-08 and 2008-09, which included a culturally unaware reaction to a "white party" invitation that landed Scripps College Vice President and Dean of Students Debra Wood a nomination for "Idiot of the Year" from The Washington Post‘s "Offbeat" column.

This year, they’re at it again. 

But first, the highlights from the last two academic years—all of these events generated e-mails that went out all across the Claremont Colleges:

During the early morning of Sunday, April 12, 2009, someone chalked a drawing and words on the wall of the loading area between Hoch-Shanahan Dining Commons and West Dorm, facing the main Quad walkway. There was a drawing of a penis and the words "DEMI?" (?) and "MUDD SUCKS D!" A photo of it is at http://www.hmc.edu/graphics/DoS/bias41309.jpg. … [T]he imagery and words are offensive and can be considered bias motivated. … We have leads on who may have written this graffiti …

[November 2008: A Claremont McKenna College student] was offended at the use of the image of Jesus with a beer can in one hand and a cigarette in the other to advertise the Wild Wild West party. The heading for the poster additionally stated: "Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the West and have come to party." The use of a demeaning depiction of a religious symbol to promote a party is clearly offensive to many people. … If there’s a doubt about whether a picture can be discriminatory, the [Discriminatory Harassment] policy further clarifies: "Examples of discriminatory harassment may include:… 3. Visual conduct: demeaning depictions (pictures, objects, posters, video, audio, or broadcast material) in a public place."

Around 11:30 PM on October 31, 2008 a group of Scripps women were returning home from a gathering at Harvey MuddCollege. While crossing Platt Blvd a silver sedan with four women purposefully slowed down and threw tortillas out the car window at them. The women in the car were suspected to be either high school or college students, and the driver of the car had blond hair. The students in the car yelled out the window at a second group of people before throwing the tortillas. This kind of conduct constitutes a bias incident …

[October 2008:] Last Friday night, an HMC [Harvey Mudd College] student entered the room of another Mudder where several people were gathered watching an Asian comedy movie. The entering student, quoting a line from another Asian comedy, said "good morning, negao," which is intended to sound like the word "nigga" with a Japanese accent. Realizing that the joke wasn’t funny to the group, the entering student quickly left the room.

[February 2008:] This morning, the following writing was viewed on the white board of an HMC dorm room – "Hillary is a foxy lesbian". It seems that the student residents wrote this message as part of a joke, without thinking about the impact it might have on others. It refers to a prominent public figure.

So, what is it this time? The Claremont Conservative blog has the story. Again we meet Debra Wood:

I am saddened and disappointed to begin the academic year with both racist and sexist incidents.

Both types of incidents involved a person or persons unknown scrawling racist and sexist epithets on students’ write and wipe boards in the residence halls. Given that these incidents occurred following the end of dry week and substantial drinking, many people might shrug off the incidents, saying it was probably stupid drunks. I ask you not to shrug it off and not to give the perpetrators of these incidents an excuse for their behavior. [Emphasis on the blog removed.]

It causes one to wonder what steps have any of the colleges made toward building a supportive, inclusive community when acts like this still occur ? [sic]

This kind of conduct constitutes a bias incident and anyone with information about the perpetrator(s) of the incidents should contact an RA, DOS staff member or campus safety.

That’s right, all this education about stereotyping and inclusiveness and diversity has not kept Debra Wood from using a slur against people who engage in "substantial drinking." Wood has declared to everyone at the Claremont Colleges that it is OK to stereotype such people as "stupid drunks." Of course, calling someone a "stupid drunk" is protected speech, especially since it’s usually just a matter of opinion. But it shows that Debra Wood really has learned nothing about being "supportive" and "inclusive" of people who engage in substantial drinking.

In all seriousness, the Claremont Colleges are out of control. I still don’t understand what is supposed to be the "impact" of "Hillary is a foxy lesbian." If you want any evidence that political correctness is alive and well, just go to Claremont, where they notify Campus Safety and send consortium-wide e-mails whenever some utterance might seem the slightest bit offensive to anybody. Public opprobrium is the best way to deal with offensive or racist speech, but Claremont’s policy is well into the realm of the ridiculous. The infantilization of students is no way to prepare them to participate as adults in a free society.

Schools: Claremont University Consortium