Washington State: The Story Gets Stranger and Stranger

July 28, 2005

Yesterday, I received the following e-mail from a student who attended the heckler-interrupted performance of the Passion of the Musical. The individual referred to as “Maldonado” is Brenda Maldonado, the administrator (an “Intercultural Student Development Coordinator” in the “Office for Campus Involvement”) who used university funds to purchase the hecklers’ tickets. This email comes from a student who alleges that he spoke with Maldonado during the performance:

During the performance and while the hecklers were going full-swing, my friends and I (there were four of us total) were wondering aloud why the security personnel were utterly failing to do their job and remove those disrupting the performance. Maldonado turned to us and said something to the effect of, “Be quiet, I’m trying to watch the show.” I asked her why she didn’t go to the hecklers and tell them that, to which she responded, “They’re people of color, I won’t mess with them.” Two of my friends continued to argue with her, and at some point she threatened both of them with physical violence via her husband, who she said was “not afraid of going to prison.”

From her initial comment, it was glaringly obvious that she had singled us out because my friends and I are all white. When we learned the next day who she was after the Daily Evergreen ran an article on the events of that night (she was featured in a photograph), we filed police reports against her with the WSU police for racial harassment, threats, and intimidation. As far as I know, the police have done nothing with those reports, as the last thing I heard was that they would follow the lead of the office headed up by Raul Sanchez (the name of the office escapes me at the moment). Considering the attempt of Sanchez’s office to twist the events around so as to blame the cast and crew of the play for the incident, I’m not surprised I’ve not heard anything more.

In a follow-up email, this same student claims that when he challenged Maldonado for singling out white audience members who objected to heckling while not confronting the hecklers, she said, “I can’t be racist. I’m a woman of color.” These claims, if true, have taken this already-absurd case to a new level. Not only did a Washington State administrator purchase the hecklers’ tickets; it now appears that this same administrator chose to threaten students with physical violence rather than stop the heckling. Does the university president believe this is a “responsible exercise” of free speech rights?

Schools:  Washington State University