Monday, February 12, 2007

Fight, Fight, and Bad Judgment

A couple of things for your Monday consideration. First, there is a war of comments going on for this recent post below. What is it about evolution that gets people all riled up?

Second, I have a number of thoughts about the recent string of offensive racial stereotypes happening on college campus parties, often in connection with MLK Day or Black History Month. There was one incident here locally at Macalester College. Here are my thoughts, in no particular order:

1. Private colleges like Macalester are well within their rights to enforce a code of conduct on or off campus that would prohibit such behavior. If the rules are made clear at the time of enrollment (or at the beginning of each school year), and students act out in such a way, go ahead and punish them. At one point, I think Macalester banned fraternities and sororities. So it is nothing new to expand the dean's reach off campus (and the party in question seems to have been held on campus, which strengthens their ability to address the situation).

2. Public colleges should stay out of the business of censoring such parties, as long as the offensive communication is not in the presence of, and directed at, a specific individual (e.g., threats, stalking, harassment). I question whether public college officials should even address a specific situation. It is good to generally express disapproval for such behavior, but it is risky to go down the path of "exploring options" as to what the public college will do about it.

3. Sensitivity training is a bad idea, particularly in this context. If you have a "Politically Incorrect" party, you know that you are not supposed to be engaging in these stereotypes. Moreover, if you hold the party on MLK Day, you are actually thumbing your nose at such things.

4. It is one thing for a group of friends to joke around amongst themselves during a night of drinking. It is quite another to take the time (presumably while sober) to plan it ahead of time and spend time concocting an offensive costume. The act of doing it, taking pictures, and then posting them on the Internet is breathtakingly bad judgment.

5. Satire is alive and well with the work of Sacha Baron Cohen (and Mel Brooks before him), but this is not that.

6. That there may have been black people invited to the parties, or even in attendance, means nothing. If your black friend thinks the party is a good idea, your friend is an idiot.

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