The criminal trial of Dharun Ravi commanded national attention and focus on our controversial hate-crime laws. The issue was whether Ravi spied on his Rutgers roommate, Tyler Clementi, and whether he spied because of prejudice against homosexuals generally and against his gay roommate in particular. Ravi’s conviction last Friday on the most serious charge against him, “bias intimidation,” carries with it a possible sentence of ten years in prison. It was not for homicide. The jury certainly knew that Tyler had jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge, a few days after 18-year-old Ravi used a web cam to observe his roommate’s tryst with a 28-year-old man in September, 2010.
Legally, however, Tyler’s suicide was irrelevant to the case. The jury should have considered only whether or not Ravi was guilty of a hate-crime: “bias intimidation.” Like 45 states and the federal government that have hate-crime laws to increase the penalties for other crimes, New Jersey has an Ethnic Intimidation Act. Nevada, for example, adds 25 percent to a prison sentence for felonies judged to be hate-crimes, but New Jersey’s hate-crime law tops the list for extra punitiveness. One problem is that hate-crimes, like beauty, are in the eyes of beholders. Did Ravi’s spying constitute “bias intimidation’?
Continue reading Hateless Hate Crime at Rutgers?
A student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin-Madison drew an unusual and alarming advertising request for its online edition. The request to the Badger Herald came a few weeks ago from an agent for Bradley R. Smith, a notorious denier of the Holocaust and founder of the loopy fringe group, Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust. Unlike ads in the Herald’s paper edition, online ads linger for a month, providing more opportunity for mischief.
Like some other controversies involving the Herald in recent years, this episode began, essentially, as an accident. The process involved in the placing of ads did not fully vet Smith’s advertisement, which announced his mission and provided an Internet link to his group and other materials. The ad remained on line unnoticed for five days before persons at Hillel, the Jewish center, noticed it and urged the Herald to withdraw it
Many Jewish students had already felt aggrieved by the Herald because of another incident a few weeks before Smith’s ad appeared. Anonymous sources had published threatening anti-Semitic remarks in the “Comments” sections that accompanied the paper’s stories of incidents relating to a party at a Jewish fraternity. Alarmed, the Herald expunged these comments, but only after the damage was done.
Made aware of Smith’s ad, the Herald’s board had to decide what to do. The board of nine students votes independently, but the students consider advice given by faculty members who do not have voting power. Advisors (I am one) provide advice in a manner that is designed to preserve the independence of the board. At a meeting the board voted to do two things: keep the ad up, and produce an editorial, written by editor in chief Jason Smathers, making clear that Holocaust denial is a pernicious fraud that lies outside the bounds of rational debate. I supported these decisions as an advisor. The editorial was a sign that the board knew Smith’s ad was different from the usual controversial ads.
Continue reading Hate and Free Speech at Wisconsin
A graduate of Wesleyan sent word that his alma mater now has a “Campus Climate Log” to chronicle “hate incidents and acts of intolerance” and help move “the entire campus towards a hate-free learning environment.” The project, wrapped in conventional diversity rhetoric, is overseen by the Dean of Diversity and Student Engagement as well as the Vice President for Diversity and Strategic Partnerships. The Log can be accessed on on-campus computers, including public ones, but it not available elsewhere. The reports range from the obviously hateful (“kill fags and Jews” scrawled on a bathroom wall) to the banal (suggestive comments from a passing car) and a postmodern graffiti by a student uncomfortable with the belief that a man is a man and a woman is a woman (“f—gender binaries”). To their credit, the Log committeepersons wonder about the point of major publicity for minor stupidities (“Would it cause more incidents by demonstrating how a single act received so much attention?”) Judging by the scarcity of complaints, either students don’t care much or the campus is already pretty much hate-free: the log for this school year shows only seven reports from last fall, and one since January 1.
Candace de Russy’s January 7 post here, “Hate-America Sociology,” understandably attracted a lot of attention. It cited a 10-question Soc 101 quiz at an unnamed eastern college, complete with accusatory leftish questions and some simple-minded answers by a student who drew a mark of 100 for agreeing with the politics of his professor.
A few readers, and many more at other sites that linked to us, asked if the test and answers are authentic. I am satisfied that they are. The material came with assurances from Dr. de Russy, a former professor and trustee at the State University of New York. I know the college involved and have a copy of the test with answers filled in. I talked with the source for the story, who cannot be identified because of privacy concerns and fear of retaliation.
The blog Progressive Scholar saw nothing wrong with the test (“I don’t understand, what is the problem with this exam?”) Dr. de Russy replied, stressing what she saw as the “unremitting bias” of the test. Its point of view, she wrote, is “entirely anti-capitalist, anti-white, anti-male. No other perspective is included, even as a hypothetical.”
Readers who come across other politically loaded exams should send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or Minding the Campus, the Manhattan Institute, 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017.
Halloween is the perfect time for those dark and scary “Tunnel of Oppression” exhibits on many college campuses. The tunnels, billed as “grassroots diversity programs,” are meant to shock and waken students to the amount of hate and oppressiveness around the world and in America today. Photos and skits in the makeshift tunnels portray the menace of the Klan, Nazi concentration camps and violence towards women and gays. The emphasis is on emotion. Some students weep, cry out, or stumble out of the tunnel early, unable to deal with the exhibits.
The tunnels usually create an eerie atmosphere to unsettle students as they move through. This is known as “getting people out of their comfort zone.” Strange whispers and catcalls fill the air. Sometimes the tunnels shrink down to a very narrow passage, inducing an educationally helpful sense of claustrophobia. The odd sounds and brutal images are intended to provoke a visceral reaction, an emotional re-education with echoes of brainwashing.
In the best blogpost done so far about the tunnel, Erin O’Connor wrote at Critical Mass: “The Tunnel of Oppression is a good example of what passes for enlightenment on today’s campuses….(It) takes the concept of shock value to extremes, using overblown melodrama as an agent of social change, and recruiting people to its cause by subjecting them to simulated short-term trauma—which it then conveniently tells them how to understand in the handy group therapy session that forms the final stop on the tour. It’s manipulative, it’s anti-intellectual, and it’s—paradoxically—every bit as cynical and consumerist as the society it claims to deplore.”
The idea of the tunnel is to emotionally transform each student. As Ashley Thorne notes on the National Association of Scholars website, at the University of Arizona participants emerge from their tunnel by signing pledges to stop hate on campus and pasting those pledges in the “Hall of Happiness.” The university created a two-credit course sponsored by the education department, labeled “Event Planning and Leadership/ the Tunnel of Oppression.” These days all dubious ideas end up on the curriculum.
Continue reading Tunnel Of Hate