Jon Sanders

Not that the outrage was limited to the campus. On Nov. 16, N&O columnist Ruth Sheehan – who earlier this year wrote an apology to the Duke lacrosse players for her 2006 column "Team's silence is sickening," which opened, "Members of the Duke men's lacrosse team: You know. We know you know." – conjured the ghosts of the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazis in her reaction. She considered but discarded the "Flush it" approach, reasoning, "I am brought up short by a quote from writer/philosopher/Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel: 'Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.'" Sheehan appeared not to entertain the possibility that the torments of the Holocaust might dwarf a bathroom-tissue craft project.

Nor has anyone save, apparently, the chancellor considered that the "noose" might have been a prank or less (the public has not seen the noose). Specifically because of hysterical overreactions such as on display right now in Raleigh, universities are particularly susceptible to the faked hate crimes to jumpstart "campus dialogue" (i.e., create new speech codes and foist compulsory diversity classes on people). The College Democrat from George Washington University drawing swastikas on her own door is the most recent example of a hoaxing tradition that goes way back and even includes a black baby-doll lynching at Duke in 1997 that was done by black activists.

Some campus "hate crimes" don't even rise to the level of a hoax, however. Remember the uproar in 2005 over a burned Koran left outside of the Islamic Center of Blacksburg, Va.? Turned out that wasn't placed there out of an attempt to intimidate; it was placed there by a Muslim student at Virginia Tech whose house burned and didn't know the proper way to dispose of a burned Koran without desecrating it.

And then there was the "defecation" incident at the multicultural center at Swarthmore College in 1998, which led to protests, vigils, and a general state of high dudgeon until someone cared to investigate further and found that the apparent excrement was actually a piece of fallen chocolate cake.

At present, however, the university remains roiled. One wonders when will come the inevitable push to eliminate toilet paper on campus – after all, if guns cause crime, then what are we to say of free T.P.? Will the fallout revitalize a nascent bidet movement (C’est magnifique!) – or will it lend extra impetus to Sheryl Crow's one-square-per-visit eco-quackery? Or will the university community come to its senses that, at the end of the day, they are investing all this energy, time and emotion over toilet tissue?

Jon Sanders

Jon Sanders is associate director of research at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, N.C.