Satirical Flier Raises Ire

April 3, 2008

By Peter Marcus at The Denver Daily News

Two Colorado Springs college students will appeal disciplinary action taken against them by the school for a flier that was meant to be a satirical response to a monthly feminist flier. Chris Robinson and a second unnamed student are being required by Colorado College to hold a forum to discuss the “issues and questions which (they) raised,” according to a disciplinary letter issued by Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Mike Edmonds.

Operating under the name the Coalition Of Some Dudes, the two students distributed a flier, the “Monthly Bag,” which was meant as a satirical response to the “Monthly Rag,” a flier distributed by the Feminist and Gender Studies Interns. The February issue of the “Monthly Bag” contained a section called “chainsaw etiquette” and a statistic about the Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifle, which Edmonds said was “received as a threat by members of the Colorado College community.”

Robinson told the Denver Daily News yesterday that the flier was not meant to be threatening, but instead meant to appeal to a masculine personality. The “chainsaw etiquette” section includes four jokes about chainsaw use, including, “When possible, show off your guns while sawing (expletive).” But in his disciplinary letter, Edmonds said the tone of the flier violated the school’s student code of conduct policy on violence under the “college value of Respect.”

“In this climate in which we find ourselves today, violenceor implied violenceof any kind cannot be tolerated on a college campus,” read the letter.

Robinson said he came up with the idea for the flier after seeing the “Monthly Rag” in men’s bathrooms throughout the small, private liberal arts college. “It’s invasive, it’s offensive and the reason I made the ‘Monthly Bag’ was to stick an ice pick into the heart of the politically correct culture,” said the senior political science major.

The competing “Monthly Rag” flier includes a reference to “male castration,” an announcement about a lecture on “feminist porn” by a “world-famous prostitute and porn star” and an explanation of “packing.” One of the five “packing” explanations defines the term as “creating the appearance of a phallus under clothing.” Another explanation defines “packing” as “often performed by females who identify outside of the heterosexual norm of the gender binary.” The flier also quoted the 1969 Joreen “Bitch Manifesto” as stating, “Bitches … clomp up stairs, stride when they walk and don’t worry about where they put their legs when they sit. They have loud voices and often use them. Bitches are not pretty.”

Eileen Bresnahan, an associate professor of feminist and gender studies at Colorado College, declined to comment yesterday on the issue. Colorado College President Richard F. Celeste and Edmonds both did not return repeated phone calls and e-mails yesterday by the Denver Daily News seeking comment. Two different receptionists said the administrators were on campus, but out to lunch at the time of the query. In a campus-wide e-mail, Celeste previously called the “Monthly Bag” “threatening and demeaning … categorically unacceptable in this community.” He called for the authors to come forward. Robinson and his colleague came forward an hour later.

The Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is assisting in the two students’ appeal process.

“One flier that mentions ‘male castration’ is not violence, but a flier that makes fun of it by mentioning ‘chainsaws’ is prohibited?” asked FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “Both should be protected, but the double standard and lack of respect for freedom of speech in this case is simply staggering.”

Robinson said his intention was only to encourage a conversation about what is and isn’t considered politically correct. “My goal in this was never to get rid of the ‘Monthly Rag,’ just to get people talking about something that I think is obnoxious,” he said. “There’s a culture here on campus where some opinions are considered to be sacrosanctsuch as the feminist agenda, if you’re religious or against abortion, or if you have anything positive to say about the presidentyou can utter any of these words on campus and it’s perfectly acceptable.”

Some students on campus agree with Robinson and have started a petition process to encourage campus officials to stop censoring free speech on campus. Robinson called the disciplinary process he experienced similar to a “Soviet show trial.”

“It would set a standard for speech whereby anyone who says something that offends the right group of people can be censored by the administration,” he said. “We need to fight that on principle alone.”

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Schools: Colorado College Cases: Colorado College: Students Found Guilty for Satirical Flyer