January 30, 2008

"I encourage conservative and libertarian — or just mischievous — students to flood the system with complaints about anything that offends them."

Glenn Reynolds is stirring up trouble for Brandeis University.

ADDED: I don't like this form of protest. Real individuals would be dragged into what is an ugly process, so it's not a prankish display of disrespect for campus authorities. I would like to see Brandeis students do what Wisconsin students did when the university invited them to feel offended and tattle: Ignore the system.

AND: For those who wish I'd say something more about the Brandeis incident. I did. Back in November.

25 comments:

B said...

What are the chances of this standing up to First Amendment scrutiny? If it were the basis of a lawsuit on First Amendment grounds, would the University or the accused policy violator be more likely to win?

Who should win?

rhhardin said...

The I-am-offended letter sounds like a fine writing assignment for freshman English classes at every university.

rhhardin said...

Are I-am-offended letters subject to the same rules? Or can you offend the recipient without being punished.

I-am-offended letters can be the new broadsheet, if they're exempt. Distribute copies.

Kirby Olson said...

Has FIRE lost a case yet?

Susan said...

Personally, I am offended by the calling of those rotating round discs "Lazy Susans". As a person of the Susan persuasion, I can assure you that I am an industrious worker and I think I can speak for all Susans when I say that we are tired of being lumped together and called lazy.

PatHMV said...

You can't just ignore the system in this circumstance. This isn't just encouraging students to tattle on each other, it's a code which applies to you whether you participate or not.

You're correct that this would cause real people real problems, potentially, which is why I would strongly suggest that the pranksters and mischief makers target primarily those who have themselves used the provisions or otherwise called for the suppression of dissent. But I think Glenn's call is appropriate in general, as a form of civil disobedience.

These speech codes are ridiculous, but when action is taken in any one particular case, the injured party usually comes appears unsympathetic, and it's easy for most people to dismiss them; no decent person would have told that joke, you know... To effectively combat them, with hardened university bureaucrats and administrators defending them, is to use them until their absurdity is apparent to every one.

In practice, these codes are aimed at only one side, protecting politically correct viewpoints from attack, while allowing the politically correct to attack the people they don't like in any manner they please. It is not until the non-PC side insists on equal enforcement that the PC side will have any realization of how bad such speech codes are.

MadisonMan said...

But Ann, if they ignore the system to report being offended, some poor university bureaucrat might lose their job!

Michael said...

Ignore it? Nonsense. Power-hungry fools abusing their authority should be mocked. Shame is often far more effective than a court case.

Joshua said...

InstaGlib is such a child.

Randy (Internet Ronin) said...

I thought you would be more concerned about the real issue at hand, and that is quite similar to what happened to your associate who mentioned the Hmong during his lecture at the law school last year. Try clicking on "University Diary" on your sidebar and read Margaret Soltan's extensive reports about what is going on there.

FWIW, I agree the response is juvenile. The issue, however, is not what you portrayed it to be. This is about academic freedom.

XWL said...

Real individuals would be dragged into what is an ugly process, so it's not a prankish display of disrespect for campus authorities.

That's precisely why this sort of protest is necessary, not why it's undesirable. The bureaucratic nightmare of the process will not be fixed until those that the bureaucrats have affinity for are faced with the very bureaucratic nonsense they have unleashed.

When it's fratboys accused (doesn't matter whether wrongly or rightly) of being 'insensitive' nobody bats an eyelash, when it's the marxist wimyn studies professor of color who is taken to task for her racist and sexist rhetoric, only then will there be some thought as to the value of offense in a collegial atmosphere.

I think if you want to break colleges of the culture of 'offense for me, but not for thee', then you have to make use of the system to destroy the system.

Absurdity must be fought with absurdity. Students who do this won't just be random mischief makers settling a score (except the ones who use the system to do just that), they'll be Dadaist artists in the fine art of finding offense.

SGT Ted said...

The call to file complaints based on being offended is the appropriate thing to do, in order to show the complete absurdity and intent of these rules. Trying to protect the subjective feelings of someone by shitting on the 1st Amendment is intellectual thuggery and has no place on an American College Campus.

The hard left has made the Universities their personal Stalinist playgrounds and crap like speech codes and viewpoint "re-education" needs to be stopped. It thus fitting to practice the favorite leftwing tactic of civil disobedience to shut these thugs down.

The best disinfectant for such anti-intellectual rulemaking is sunlight and ridicule.

Elliott A said...

Anyone not protesting deserves to be adversely affected. There is no such thing as an innocent bystander when a university unleashes institutional tyranny.

Smilin' Jack said...

What will be fun to see is when one "protected category" goes after another--e.g. a fundamentalist Muslim group claims they are deeply offended by the presence of women without burkhas on campus. Steel Cage Match of the Protected Categories!

Pogo said...

The French call this "work to rule".

It is a method of destroying absurd or deletirious authority in part by aggressively complying with every rule or regulation to the letter.

This hyper-compliance causes a slowdown or completely overwhelms the process.

For example, in one company my Dad worked for, cost cutting rules meant that engineers could only get a new pencil when their old pencil was less than 2.5 inches long. So he took all of his co-worker's pencils home and cut them into 2 inch pieces, and all these guys turned the short pencils in the next day, asking for replacements.

The humilating pencil rule quickly died.

I consider this form of protest truly artistic, and essential when fighting a gross injustice such as this.

Bruce Hayden said...

Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't Brandeis private? U. Wisconsin is public, which is why the 1st amdt. is implicated. But that shouldn't affect a private school.

That said, this school has gone beyond most others in this ridiculous speech code. It appears to protect about everyone from college Republicans through Vietnam vet drag queens (yes, Vietnam Vet status is one of the protected categories, as is sexual orientation).

So, my suggestion is to make complaints about the more egregious professors in the victim advocacy departments, like Women's studies, Black studies, etc. After all, that feminist professor railing on about white male privilege is being racist and sexist at the same time, and many of the white males are likely quite offended. No doubt that is quite hurtful speech to them.

Revenant said...

Real individuals would be dragged into what is an ugly process, so it's not a prankish display of disrespect for campus authorities.

Those "real individuals" shouldn't be tolerating the existence of the system.

Say a company refuses to hire black people. Is it wrong to organize a boycott of that company? After all, the boycott will cost the company business, resulting in employees (ones who had nothing to do with the anti-black policy) being laid off, and investors (perhaps ones who did not directly support the policy) losing money. Those "real people" are harmed by the boycott. But I would argue that it is *necessary* to put those people through that pain and inconvenience, because there is no stronger motivation than enlightened self-interest.

Every professor at that university should be marching into the administration office to say "either this policy goes or we walk". They aren't doing that for one simple reason -- they, as individuals, don't especially care if the occasional politically-incorrect professor or student gets nailed as long as the system doesn't hurt *them*.

So, make the system hurt them.

Blake said...

This is one area I've disagreed with Althouse before: It seems Ann has praised the fact that laws--not just speech codes, but laws in general--are selectively applied.

That strikes me as a recipe for tyranny. There are so many laws now, and so vague they are, that anyone could be harassed to ruin by a bureaucrat with the desire to do so.

This speech code amounts to the same thing. Either it applies to everyone or it should be abolished.

Blake said...

For some reason I'm reminded of this:

All those innocent contractors brought in to do the job were killed. Casualties of a war they had nothing to do with. All right, look: you’re a roofer. Some juicy government contract comes your way. You’ve got a wife and kids and a two story in suburbia. This is a government contract, which means all sorts of benefits. Along come these left wing militants that blast everything within a three mile radius with their lasers. You didn’t ask for that. You had no personal politics. You’re just trying to scrape by a living.

Synova said...

I'd favor T-shirts with the message,
"What is your special protected class?" in nice block letters. And maybe "your" underlined.

Though, in the end, it probably matters more what the school defines as harassment and what they define as a hostile environment.

Ann Althouse said...

Randyy: "I thought you would be more concerned about the real issue at hand, and that is quite similar to what happened to your associate who mentioned the Hmong during his lecture at the law school last year. Try clicking on "University Diary" on your sidebar and read Margaret Soltan's extensive reports about what is going on there. FWIW, I agree the response is juvenile. The issue, however, is not what you portrayed it to be. This is about academic freedom."

I'm not sure what you're saying other than that you want me to do another post on the underlying controversy, which I wrote about when it originally came up back in November, here. I compared it to the Wisconsin incident then. This post is just about the protest Glenn suggested.

Randy (Internet Ronin) said...

Sorry Ann, I didn't recall your earlier mention of the subject. Thanks for pointing it out.

Sir Archy said...
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Sir Archy said...
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Sir Archy said...

To Professor Althouse.

Madam,

As a Ghost of a Person dead these 250 years and more, the Occasions upon which I may have been given Offense, have been practically Numberless.  To whom should I have complain'd when I was ill-used for being a Scotsman?  In genteel Company, I said nothing, or offer'd some small, witty Remark, shewing thus my bemus'd Contempt.  At other Times, I made Reply with my Fists, and have beat many a Fellow for Impertinence.  The English have never learnt that we have the Advantage of 'em, especially by way of physical Strength & Vigour; and that there is a Price to be paid for the continual childish Japes & Jests they seem habituated to make at our Expense.

'Twas possible in my Day, as it is in This, to go to Law for Libel & Slander; but to what Court should I have made Complaint, Madam, of the small daily Insults & Offenses that afflict all Men? To Whom should I have apply'd for Redress when my Ears were hourly smitten by obscene Taunts aim'd at my Race? ('Why is a Scotsman like a Hæmorrhoid?' &c., &c.)  I may tell You that I was inculcated, by making my Way thus insult'd, with a Mental & Physical Toughness, that I should otherwise have never possess'd.

Is it hardly surprising, Madam, that Those who seek the Shelter of Academick Bowers would also seek Redress from every possible Word & Action that could violate their feeble Sensibilities, and that Byzantine Rules & Star Chamber Courts should have sprung up to enforce the Namby-Pamby among effete Students & spineless Professors?

Praying, Madam, that You may not take Offense at my Picture of Academick Life, and report Me to the Authorities,

I remain, as ever,

Your humble & obt. Servant,

Sir Archy