Dealing With Disruptive Veterans

Mike Adams

4/14/2009 12:01:00 AM - Mike Adams

Pennsylvania State University has stepped in it. In fact, they’ve stepped in it to the tops of their combat boots. A video was recently posted on the Penn State website for the ostensible purpose of helping professors deal with disruptive students. But its negative and stereotypical portrayal of veterans has provoked well-deserved outrage from citizens everywhere.

In the video, an instructor pays a visit to her department head indicating that she is still having a problem with a student. The department head responds eerily, asking whether the referenced student is "the veteran." She indicates that, yes, it is “the veteran.”

The timid instructor then explains to the department head that she's very nervous because the veteran student has confronted her in reference to the poor grades he's receiving in the class. Then the video breaks away to a flashback. In the flashback, the instructor calmly assures the student, "This isn't a personal thing against you."

Of course, the veteran student responds angrily. His gaze is intense and evokes fear of a possible physical assault as he says “I think it is. You've made it very clear in your class how you feel about the war and you're taking it out on me." The instructor responds in a pleading tone, "My personal beliefs have nothing to do with the way I treat you."

At least two messages in this video are very disturbing: First, instructors are often unfairly attacked for injecting their beliefs into their courses when, in fact, they do not. Second, those assaults come from dangerous extremists on the right including, but not limited to, members of the military.

Both of those messages are untrue and intentionally propagandistic. But that’s not what Penn State is saying.

To their credit, Penn State officials have pulled the video from the university website. They have also admitted that the video could have been seen as a stereotypical portrayal of an important group. This may have been the first time the administration has characterized our military as “important.”

But Penn State’s assertion that they “certainly regret any misperception” is disingenuous. And I’m producing a series of videos in order to test the assertion.

In my first video, LaShawn, a black student, is angry about his bad grade on a paper defending affirmative action. In the video, the instructor (played by me) calmly assures the student, "This isn't a personal thing against you." Of course, the black male student responds angrily. His gaze is intense and evokes fear of a possible physical assault as he says “I think it is. You've made it very clear in your class how you feel about affirmative action and you're taking it out on me." I respond in a pleading tone, "My personal beliefs have nothing to do with the way I treat you."

In my second video, Hunter, a feminist student, is angry about her bad grade on a paper defending abortion. In the video, I calmly assure the student, "This isn't a personal thing against you." Of course, the feminist starts to cry. Her voice is barely discernible as she says “I think it is. You've made it very clear in your class how you feel about abortion and you're taking it out on me." I respond in a pleading tone, "My personal beliefs have nothing to do with the way I treat you."

In my third video, Christopher (formerly Chris), a gay student, is angry about his bad grade on a paper defending gay marriage. In the video, I calmly assure the student, "This isn't a personal thing against you." Of course, the gay man starts to cry. His voice is barely discernible as he clutches his Yorkshire terrier and says “I think it is. You've made it very clear in your class how you feel about gay marriage and you're taking it out on me." I respond in a pleading tone, "My personal beliefs have nothing to do with the way I treat you."

After I send these three videos to Penn State, I will admit that all three videos could have been seen as a stereotypical portrayal of important groups. Then I will blandly assert that I certainly regret any misperceptions the videos may have caused.

Hopefully, officials at Penn State will accept my half-hearted apology. If so, I promise I’ll accept theirs.