February 23, 2008

"Indoctrinate U."

"Indoctrinate U" is now available to buy and download on line here. The film — which I watched the other day — uses that "Roger and Me" approach where the filmmaker confronts people who have not agreed to an interview, and you probably already know whether you love to laugh at people who are trapped into defending the bureaucracy they work for. I think the conflict between free speech on campus and dealing with racial and sexual harassment is quite a bit more subtle than Evan Coyne Maloney makes it out to be, but It's an amusing presentation of his point of view.

(Cross-posted on Instapundit.)

47 comments:

Brett said...

i saw it last evening and thought it was extremely entertaining...regardless of substance, it articulated many of the frustrations I have related to issues involved...plus, that Evan is extremely effective in using that understated politeness to highlight the more vitriolic side of his target

Richard said...

"I think the conflict between free speech on campus and dealing with racial and sexual harassment is quite a bit more subtle than Evan Coyne Maloney makes it out to be..."

Undoubtedly. I believe it is revelatory how issue like racial and sexual harassment are addressed within academia as opposed to society at large. The creepy mind control mentality for starters which is at the heart of indoctrination.

P. Rich said...

Althouse said: I think the conflict between free speech on campus and dealing with racial and sexual harassment is quite a bit more subtle...

Perhaps that's because you chose a profession (law) which creates a never ending stream of newly-manufactured complexities (aka precedents and interpretations) which ensure its continued "growth" and existence, rather than reducing an issue to a question of first principles. You have, in other words, adopted "complicated" as a first principle, and you are certainly not alone in this unfortunate view.

Trumpit said...

What a truly unsubtle comment you just made, p. rich, totally lacking in tangibility, and complexity. Your disdain for lawyers and the law comes shining through completely though.

M. Simon said...

P. Rich reminds me of the very oldest lawyer joke:

One lawyer in a town. He will go broke.

Two lawyers in town. Both will become rich.

Harry said...

Evidently the comment about subtlety is going to attract some reaction.

I notice that some are interested in expanding the concept of harassment to the point where speech that they do not approve of is not acceptable on grounds of harassment. That should be worrisome to all of us.

Unwisely, universities are taking on an impossible goal. They want a campus where no one gets offended. Personally, I think that is a dangerous goal. If ideas are your currency, then you should know that someone will be offended.

What to do about harassment? I wonder if it is the university's place to patrol the corridors of academia, looking for wrongdoing. Somehow, I think law enforcement should be the province of duly elected officials. If someone has a concern about harassment, they should take it up with the legal authorities. Yes, that means I do have a concern about universities with their own police force.

rightwingprof said...

I'm not sure what's subtle about it. It's pretty cut and dried. Either the university is an autonomous government to which the Constitution does not apply, or it is not. Either there is free speech, or there is not. Neither allows for any middle ground or compromise. Nothing "nuanced" or "subtle" about it.

P. Rich said...

Trumpit said: Your disdain for lawyers and the law comes shining through completely though.

Good. Thank you. But I should clarify: It's distain for the law as practiced, which must logically include the practitioners. I have deep respect for legal first principles as established in this country, a position which is no doubt lacking in requisite complexity. Sigh.

Birkel said...

As soon as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States is passed protecting people from racial and gendered discrimination, I'll find the whole argument much more persuasive.

Freedom of speech is more important and thus already has Constitutional protection. 219 years and counting.

Ann Althouse said...

Rightwingprof: Rights need to be defined, and free speech rights have not been defined as absolute. I take a very strong free speech position myself, but my problem with the movie is that it doesn't even give any weight to the arguments on the other side. If you actually care about free speech, you have to appreciate the values and interests that it trumps and try to persuade people who care about those things to put free speech first. The movie mostly just laughs at the people who care about things like whether black students feel welcome on campus. For example, fliers advertising a speech using the book title "You Can Leave the Plantation" were posted -- in multiple form -- in a place in the school where black students congregate. The student who did that was treated too harshly, but the concerns of the university were mostly laughed off as if the fact that the objected-to words were the title of the book and the flier advertised a speech by the author. I think that what not a sophisticated enough analysis of the problem.

Fen said...

[comment deleted by MiniInfo]

*** before exercising your rights, you must register your beliefs with the Rhetoric Department and complete 12 credits on hate speech.

Birkel said...

As soon as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States is passed protecting people from racial and gendered discrimination by private actors, I'll find the whole argument much more persuasive.

Obviously state action is different and what I wrote initially was poorly considered. Apologies.

Virtual Mule said...

I can't make sense of this:

"....The student who did that was treated too harshly, but the concerns of the university were mostly laughed off as if the fact that the objected-to words were the title of the book and the flier advertised a speech by the author. I think that what not a sophisticated enough analysis of the problem..."

Pat said...

"I take a very strong free speech position myself, but my problem with the movie is that it doesn't even give any weight to the arguments on the other side."

Hi, Ann. I was present when someone said pretty much the same thing to Evan Coyne Maloney. (I attended the screening of the film at Duke, and he answered questions afterward.) He responded that he went out of his way to give the professors and administrators an opportunity to present their side. He left phone messages and sent e-mails inviting them to do so, but these invitations were ignored. He then tried to call on them in person, as shown in the film, but the professors and administrators declined to speak to him.

In short: the film seems one-sided because the faculty members in question refused to present their side. Their actions are not defended because they themselves chose not to offer a defense.

Kirby Olson said...

I looked in Amazon.com for this but there is no such film listed in their DVDs. I suspect that I won't be able to open this on my computer, but would like to see it. Is there any other way to see it, or is it going to receive a general release? Is it set entirely on Duke University campus?

I like the pun in the title. It's evidence of some humor, at least.

Ann Althouse said...

Virtual Male, sorry, I should have proofread that better.

Here's a corrected version:

The student who did that was treated too harshly, but the concerns of the university were mostly laughed off as if it was enough of an argument to say that the objected-to words were the title of the book and the flier advertised a speech by the author. I think that was not a sophisticated enough analysis of the problem.

Pat said...

Kirby:

No, the film isn't limited to Duke. It covers infringements of free speech at numerous universities across the country.

"Indoctrinate U" isn't in general release, but there are some public screenings. You can see the schedule here.

Currently, the only way to buy the film is directly from the indoctrinate-u.com Web site. I'm not sure why you believe it won't play on your computer.

Kirby Olson said...

Sometimes I can't even download government forms because it says I need an adobe reader, and then when i try to download that, it won't download. At any rate, I did look this up and watched the trailer. I'm going to write to History Channel and see if they will play it on their channel.

Pat said...

Ann, I'm mystified by your comments about the Steve Hinkle case. What, exactly, were "the concerns of the university" when it condemned Hinkle of "disruption of a campus event" and ordered him to write apologies to the people who reported him to campus police as "a suspicious white male passing out literature of an offensive racial nature"?

His offense was posting (on a public bulletin board) a flyer that some people didn't like. It seems to me that the people who responded with "not a sophisticated enough analysis of the problem" are the administrators who subjected him to a seven-hour hearing without counsel, convicted him of a trumped-up charge, and threatened to expel him from the university if he didn't grovel sufficiently.

Maguro said...

I'm also curious what the legitimate "concerns of the university" might have been regarding the posters. Do liberals think that black kids will get the vapors and faint if they see a poster with the word "plantation" on it? Seems pretty condescending to me.

Ann Althouse said...

To say "you can leave the plantation" is to characterize black people— as they are today — as slaves. It was close to posting a lot of signs that said "You people are a bunch of slaves." At some point it is harassment.

I said I thought they treated the student who posted the fliers too harshly, but he was being provocative and the film should not pretend that he was just a nice guy inviting students to a speech. He was doing something that would upset and anger people. If I remember the film correctly, he posted multiple fliers in an area where black students congregate.

Now, I support students' right to be provocative and even offensive and to get into big arguments with each other. But I say that — and work on my campus for it — while recognizing that the university has a legitimate concern about creating a positive campus experience for young people and especially for making members of minority groups feel welcome and included in the community. I know I would not stay in an environment where I felt hated. I would go somewhere else.

The film does not take these concerns seriously enough. The young man who posted the fliers is not challenged to think of things from other points of view. He is not being asked to think deeply -- which is ironic, because a major point in the film is that universities are supposed to be places where people engage over challenging ideas.

Birkel said...

Professor Althouse,
Fine, you wouldn't stay on a campus where you weren't welcomed.

How should all the fundamentalist Christians (of which I am not one) feel when they enter the average liberal arts program? How should those who oppose gay marriage feel when they are told not to say things that are "too offensive" (my words) by faculties that are diametrically opposed to them? The list goes on but I shall not.

In point of fact, one cannot support free speech and protection from hurt feelings simultaneously as soon as the aggrieved groups organize and pursue their agendas with as much zeal as have the groups that have achieved the protection from harassment that you support. Neither you nor anybody else can suggest any system that achieves the incompatible goals you allegedly support.

David Becker said...

It seems that the overarching problem is that some people believe they have a right to not be offended. My mother used to say "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me." It was her way of teaching my siblings and me respect for robust free speech. The notion that blacks (or any group) have to be protected from words or images it doesn't like or doesn't feel comfortable with (what an effete idea) is an example of the "soft fascism" that Jonah Goldberg has written about. There are no subtleties in my opinion, just clever and deceptive arguments to stop genuine free expression.

Maguro said...

Well, I guess I just don't agree that the fliers constituted "harassment". It's not like the guy ran around campus spray-painting the n-word and leaving nooses all over the place.

His poster was promoting a lecture that dealt with a serious argument - that blacks are holding themselves back by staying on the liberal plantation. You may disagree, but it is hardly hate speech.

It seems to bother you that the fliers were posted "in an area where black students congregate", but of course blacks are the target audience of this lecturer.

You seem to share the view of many liberals that blacks are so unsophisticated that they couldn't possibly comprehend this guy's argument and would only get their feelings hurt. I disagree.

Ann Althouse said...

Please reread what I wrote and be clear what you are disagreeing with me about. There are some overemotional reactions here that are not justified. Paraphrase what you think I said before you disagree, so I can quote you and point out why you are being inaccurate. You're leaving out half of what I said and engaging in the same unsubtle argumentation that is my problem with the movie.

Robert said...

I just want to point out that the flyer was advertising a speech by an African-American author named Mason Weaver. Weaver's speech and book were both titled "It's OK to Leave the Plantation," not "You Can Leave the Plantation." More information on this case is available from FIRE (http://www.thefire.org/index.php/article/152.html ). It's worth noting that Cal Poly was sued for its treatment of Hinkle and ended up settling the case by taking the incident off his record, pledging not to interfere with his right to post flyers from then on, and changing a definition in its rules so that quietly posting a flyer could no longer constitute a "disruption."

Those interested can also read the transcript of the seven-hour hearing Cal Poly put Hinkle through, and see other eye-opening documents, on FIRE's site (http://www.thefire.org/index.php/case/14.html ).

Weaver's book was written to encourage African-Americans to reject dependency on government programs, and his speech covered the same topic. Hinkle was putting flyers advertising this speech on a public bulletin board in the multicultural center that was for the use of all students of Cal Poly. If Hinkle agreed with Weaver's message, it only made sense for him to put the posters where African-American students were likely to see them, possibly attend the speech, and perhaps come around to Weaver's way of thinking. If Weaver didn't want that to happen, why in the world would he give his speech? If I am a John McCain supporter, should I avoid putting up signs in Mike Huckabee strongholds because people there might not like it? I think not.

To suggest that what Hinkle did was improper--or to even suggest that more analysis is needed to determine whether what he did was OK--is contrary to fundamental principles of American liberty (not to mention the "marketplace of ideas" that a university should represent!). It's no different from suggesting that any other discussion of controversial topics should be avoided, watered down, or otherwise weakened because people will be exposed to, and possibly offended by, beliefs they don't share. If that's where we are as a society, we are in a very bad place indeed.

Robert Shibley
Vice President, FIRE
www.thefire.org

Stacy McMahon said...

Ann: "To say "you can leave the plantation" is to characterize black people— as they are today — as slaves. It was close to posting a lot of signs that said "You people are a bunch of slaves." At some point it is harassment."

At what point? I'm sorry but you're wrong on this. You say that a university is supposed to be a place where people "engage deeply" over ideas, but the only deep engagement in that case was on the part of the student posting the 'offensive' flyers. Both the university and the black students chose to respond with petulant anger and an abusive display of force. Evan Maloney is speaking truth to power.

Ann Althouse said...

Robert Shibley: "To suggest that what Hinkle did was improper--or to even suggest that more analysis is needed to determine whether what he did was OK--is contrary to fundamental principles of American liberty (not to mention the "marketplace of ideas" that a university should represent!). It's no different from suggesting that any other discussion of controversial topics should be avoided, watered down, or otherwise weakened because people will be exposed to, and possibly offended by, beliefs they don't share. If that's where we are as a society, we are in a very bad place indeed."

You are confusing free speech rights with other ideas about civility and community that I am talking about. Many, many rights claimants who have won their cases in the history of First Amendment law were not behaving in an admirable way and are open to criticism for the way they treated other people. One of the reasons it is bad for the university to proceed the way they did is that it turns the speaker into a victim, rather than leaving him open to criticism for what he did. This criticism is free speech too. And he has absolutely no right to be immune from criticism for rudeness and insensitivity. What I am saying IS a contribution to the marketplace of ideas. It seems to me that you the one who's trying to restrict that market.

vnjagvet said...

Had Hinkle merely been criticized by Cal Poly, I suspect FIRE would not have filed the lawsuit,and Hinkle would not have been the subject of a vignette in Indoctrinate U.

Ann Althouse said...

And again — how many times do I have to say it? — I don't agree with punishing the speaker in this case. He spoke, and he should be argued with, however. I think it would have been better if the students who were there got into an argument with him and made him understand how he made them feel. I don't remember what they did, but if they held their tongues and then went to the authorities for help, that is not as good. People need to learn to talk to each other.

Birkel said..."How should all the fundamentalist Christians (of which I am not one) feel when they enter the average liberal arts program? How should those who oppose gay marriage feel when they are told not to say things that are "too offensive" (my words) by faculties that are diametrically opposed to them? The list goes on but I shall not.""

It is always hard to talk to people who are hostile to what you think and there is a lot of peer pressure. Part of your learning experience should be figuring out how to present your ideas and reach other people. But sometimes there will be fights. I certainly don't think the faculty should tell you not to be offensive, but you need to feel the effect of saying things that affect people from those people. As a Christian, you must know that Jesus set a good example for how to challenge people by speaking to them, how to persuade, and how to be true to your beliefs.

As a faculty member, I work very hard at trying to activate all sides of the argument -- in classes that are often about these tough issues like abortion and gay rights. And I know a lot of law professors who do the same thing. The idea that all the faculty wants to do is indoctrinate is not something I have seen at my school. I'm committed to debate, and I will take the opposing side myself if it's not adequately voiced by students. And it is a huge longtime problem that conservative students keep silent!

Daryl said...

Althouse, do you really believe that calling people slaves is harassment?

We had better ban all of the left-wing "thinkers" who tell college students that they are slaves to the Bush regime/patriarchy/capitalism/Christianity/etc.

Anyone whining about FISA or warantless wiretapping might engender feelings of unfreedom in me. I'm a patriot. I love America. Why should those lefties be able to make me feel bad about it with facts and innuendo? (What's the difference between facts and innuendo, if all that matters is my feelings?)

And anyone who says that campus speech restrictions == unfreedom, why, that's almost like telling someone they're a slave! We should ban that, too.

Or do you want special protections just for black students? They are weaker than the rest of us, you know. Affirmative action guarantees that black students are about two standard deviations below the rest of us.

Not at my school, though. I go to a school where black students are my equal. I know they're probably within one standard deviation of the average. Harvard students can't say that. Half of the blacks around them are window dressing, and they all know it. What a poisonous meme to inject into students during their formative years! What a hateful thing to do!

mdis29a said...

Daryl, are you by any chance a College Republican?

Pat said...

Ann, the phrase you find so objectionable is the title of the book in question. How on earth was Steve Hinkle supposed to invite people to come hear the author speak about his book if he's not allowed to mention the book's title?

You say that "it would have been better if the students who were there got into an argument with" Hinkle. Well, yes, it would have been better than calling the police! But if their complaint was about the title of the book, then hassling Hinkle about it would have been stupid and pointless. What they should have done was to go to the author's speech -- as Hinkle was trying to invite them to do -- and express their sentiments directly to the man who actually wrote the book and chose its title. But instead, they chose to attack the messenger.

rightwingprof said...

"my problem with the movie is that it doesn't even give any weight to the arguments on the other side"

When the SCOTUS allows the First Amendment to be infringed to spare somebody's feelings, then I suppose you may have a point. It has not. And the issue, at least as I see it sitting from campus, is that universities believe that they are autonomous, and they can freely ignore the law of the land.

Rob said...

I'm late coming to this discussion, but both as a lawyer interested in constitutional law issues, and as - in my earlier life - an historian of ideas, I find it more than a little shocking that an ostensibly libertarian-leaning professor of constitutional law would find any merit whatsoever in arguments that the university should have even the least bit of concern whether some of its students are offended at campus speech that fall short of the traditional limitations. To even suggest that the title of a book could be considered the equivalent of "fighting words" - which is what I think what you're doing here, is to make a mockery of the entire notion of free speech.

Leaving aside the fact that action at public Cal Poly constitutes state action after all, which places it in a category entirely different from private universities, it makes a mockery of Mill's notion of the market place of ideas and the idea of the university as a place where ideas can be explored without fear or favor, to stand or fall on their own merits.

Virtual Mule said...

I believe, having worked for a public university for a number of years, that the problem is that the free Marketplace for Ideas in the Academy has been replaced in areas related to diversity by a monoply of the ideas of the Office of Diversity. One of their most important ideas is that they, and their salaries, are eternally indispensible to the proper education of students. If there does not exist a current threat sufficient to justify those salaries, one must be found. If the threat no longer exists, their reason for being also vanishes. If converting a potentially teachable moment about civility and respectful discourse into a nightmare of administrative and academic sanctions for a white male student is what it takes to justify those salaries that is what will be done.

Fen said...

the university has a legitimate concern... for making members of minority groups feel welcome and included in the community

When you say "minority" groups, do you mean those on campus or those in society? Because I suspect they are two very different groups.

Fen said...

And Robert, thank you guys so much for FIRE. In the past, I've passeed your org's contact info around to students in need who unfortunatelyu were not the "right" minority to get protection from the multiculturalists. You do good work.

Robert said...

Prof. Althouse -

In response to your comment, please don't think that FIRE has any interest at all in restricting criticism of Hinkle's speech, or criticism of anyone else's speech, for that matter. It's why we defended both Ward Churchill's right to speak (http://www.thefire.org/index.php/article/5469.html) and the right of people to criticize Ward Churchill (http://www.thefire.org/index.php/case/697.html). FIRE did not, and would not, lift a finger to defend the ideas that Hinkle and Weaver were promoting. It's simply outside our mission. Our only mission is to ensure that everyone has a right to communicate their beliefs, even in places and at times where it is likely or even certain to offend others.

There is, of course, an ongoing argument over whether civility or liberty is more important on campus. It probably surprises nobody that FIRE comes always comes out squarely on the side of liberty in such situations. Evan Maloney's documentary obviously shares this tendency, which is fine - he is under no obligation to represent the other side (of course, he did try to and got little cooperation, but that's really his call).

I would never say that what you were saying was not a contribution to the marketplace of ideas - I can remember times at FIRE where we have even been in the position of arguing for the rights of people to demand unlawful censorship, which you are obviously not doing here. And here we both seem to agree that Hinkle should not have been punished and that Cal Poly treated him extremely unfairly. If had simply been a matter of his being criticized for his expression but not officially punished, FIRE would never have been involved at all - that's the breaks when you live in a free society.

From reading the other comments here, it seems clear that I am not the only one who interpreted your comments as tending to favor civility over liberty in this situation. But having read your response to me and your other follow-ups, I now believe that you are really just arguing that Hinkle could fairly be criticized for his beliefs, and that Maloney's movie doesn't really do that argument justice. On that, I may have an opinion, but FIRE certainly doesn't!

Robert said...

Also, fen, thanks for your kind words!

knoxwhirled said...

Universities go too far in trying to make the environment *perfectly* comfortable for selective minorities. That's patently impossible to achieve without scaring the shit out of a lot of other people and stifling free speech.

And it is a huge longtime problem that conservative students keep silent!

This is why your viewpoint here confuses me--you are already seeing the negative effects. People are truly afraid that if they speak their minds, their grades will suffer or someone might going to report them to "the authorities."

In light of this, your concern for potential "victims" --instead of the ones who are already visibly being intimidated --is surprising and seems out-of-context. To conservative students, you are saying: "buck up! Be ready for fights, to defend your ideas and be challenged!" But at the same time you expect them to handle minorities with kid gloves; to anticipate every potential for offense and edit accordingly.

I consider you extremely open-minded... but if you consider a flyer with a book title on the cover provocative and offensive, then conservatives might as well just give up. I don't see how there could be any sort of real or fair marketplace of ideas on campus.

knoxwhirled said...

... even that book title.

Kirby Olson said...

Ann writes, "As a Christian, you must know that Jesus set a good example for how to challenge people by speaking to them, how to persuade, and how to be true to your beliefs."

The only problem is perhaps the result: not everyone is willing to be crucified for their beliefs.

Pat said...

"I consider you extremely open-minded... but if you consider a flyer with a book title on the cover provocative and offensive, then conservatives might as well just give up."

Actually, I think it's probably fair to say that the book title was provocative and offensive, at least to some people. That's not really the issue. The issue is, in a free society, what should you do when you are confronted with speech that you find provocative and offensive?

The correct answer is: you counter it with speech of your own. You explain why you object to the other person's speech. You engage in dialogue with people who have opinions that differ from yours. This has the potential to accomplish all kinds of good things. You may persuade the other guy to change his tune. Or he may persuade you. Or neither of you may change his mind, but you both learn more about why the other person thinks the way he does, possibly leading to an amicable, agree-to-disagree sort of resolution. Tolerance.

And if the debate is open and public, third parties can listen to both sides and learn more about them, which will help them develop and refine their own views on the matter. Everyone benefits.

But what happened in the Steve Hinkle case was this: the students who saw him post the flyer did not want to engage in dialogue. They were not interested in being open-minded, or learning anything about why Hinkle or the book's author hold the views that they do. No, what those students wanted was to SILENCE people whose views differ from theirs.

They could have accomplished this by simply beating the crap out of him on the spot. But that would have required them to take responsibility for their own thuggery and accept the consequences. They were too cowardly for that, so they did something even more despicable: they called on the university administration to perform the thuggery for them -- and the administration was happy to oblige them. It, also, was not at all interested in promoting open-minded debate and understanding of other people's viewpoints (you know, the marketplace of ideas that universities are supposed to stand for).

No, the administration wanted to make the whole thing go away as quickly and quietly as possible, and the administrators thought that they could accomplish this by silencing Hinkle and bullying him into groveling before the student thugs. But this required what Ayn Rand calls "the sanction of the victim", which Hinkle refused to give them. He said no and stood up to them. In the end, the administrators were revealed as the cowardly bullies they are, because they backed down in the face of public exposure of their shameful behavior.

Kirby Olson said...

Dumb use of speech colors the character of the person who makes it, and ultimately sinks them. But attempts to censor speech also color character, and ultimately sink the person who tries it.

It's best to just let dummies sink themselves, and otherwise impose no limits until you're talking about libel, or serious threats (I think that threats to do harm are considered crimes, are they not?).

I don't see how the flier advertising a published book can be considered a serious physical threat.

paul a'barge said...

There is no racial or sexual harassment on campus. Yes, there are the occasional bigots and butt heads, but there simply is no phenomenon.

Chap said...

@Prof. Althouse: I gotta admit you've definitely not won me over at all for this argument. Maybe I just ain't getting it, but I see an apples and oranges discussion here. I don't see where your argument is germane for the purposes of a film that's supposed to be showing what looks to me like *real* harassment to people trying to speak The kid with the flyers suffered for real, and you're talking about possible, potential, offense, because of imprecision when navigating the complexities of forming an argument...but that argument isn't allowed to start because the *next* guy with a flyer has just been chilled.

Is there another way you can restate this so that slow guys like me get it? Are you really trying to magnify a nit that is not part of what the filmmaker wants to do, and in the process derailing your persuasive power for the argument you want to make?


-- -- --

@Robert: Thanks very much for your hard work. Since I have the opportunity, I'd like to suggest that if you get some downtime, to think about how your organization later in life will be able to avoid becoming an organization counter to today's goals or ineffectively growing Governor LePetomaine style. Too many organizations which once did great work have been doing much less great work later; you're doing great work now. Thanks.