Author’s Note: The author is a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. His defense in this column of a fellow Sigma Chi cannot be seen as objective. But, then again, none of his columns are objective.
It’s bad enough that college administrators try to censor student speech that actually takes place on campus. But the latest trend in “hire” education is for college administrators to censor the off-campus speech of their students. And www.FaceBook.com has been one of the favorite sites for the campus thought police to patrol in recent years.
Although this is a widespread trend, Johns Hopkins University has elevated academic idiocy – not to mention childishness – to a Zen art with its recent suspension of a student for an entire year for posting Halloween party invitations that some students found “offensive” in a Face Book chat room.
Eighteen-year-old junior Justin Park is a brilliant student who was admitted to Johns Hopkins at the age of fifteen. But, now, he has been found guilty of failing to “respect” others, “harassment”, and “intimidation” by an institution of “hire” learning so steeped in the tyranny of tolerance that it feels (not thinks) it has an obligation to sooth the inner child of every student at every moment of the day. This feeling trumps the feelings our Founding Fathers had regarding free expression.
The Hopkins Halloween controversy began on October 26, when Mr. Park - also the social chair of the Sigma Chi fraternity - posted an advertisement for the fraternity’s “Halloween in the Hood” party on Face Book. Predictably, Director of Greek Affairs Robert Turning asked Park to remove the invitation because some students found it “offensive.”
Mr. Park cooperated with the censorious actions of the administration by removing the advertisement the following day. But people still asked about the party. So Mr. Park ran another advertisement and Sigma Chi did, indeed, host the party on October 28.
This is when the real trouble began.
The following week, Associate Dean of Students Dorothy Sheppard sent Mr. Park a letter expressing her constitutionally protected, although silly, opinion that the two Face Book ads contained “offensive” racial stereotyping. She also said there were “offensive” decorations at the party. The only “offensive” decoration was a skeleton hanging in the Sigma Chi house. For years, I’ve seen these decorations and never knew they were “offensive” reminders of the practice of lynching carried out by the KKK. But, thanks to Dorothy Sheppard, I stand corrected.
Sheppard’s letter also informed Mr. Park that he was officially charged with “failing to respect the rights of others and to refrain from behavior that impairs the university’s purpose or its reputation in the community,” violating the “university’s anti-harassment policy,” “failure to comply with the directions of a university administrator,” “conduct or a pattern of conduct that harasses a person or a group,” and “intimidation.”
Informed of the charges against him, Mr. Park was ready to go to trial.
A few days later, the Student Conduct Board held a hearing to discuss the charges against Park. Later in November, Park received a notice from Sheppard stating that he had been found responsible on all of the “charges” against him.
Here is where the matter stands:
- Park faces suspension from the university until January 2008;
- During this time he cannot set foot on campus;
- Park must complete 300 hours of community service;
- Park has been assigned to read 12 books and write a reflection paper on each;
- Park must attend a workshop on diversity and race relations.
Fortunately, the committee stopped just short of making Park sit in the back of the bus when he relies on public transportation.
Johns Hopkins President William Brody (410-516-8068; firstname.lastname@example.org) has been contacted by the invaluable Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE, see www.TheFIRE.org). FIRE reminded Brody that the severe treatment of Park is inconsistent with its Student Conduct Code, which explicitly states that students must “protect the university as a forum for the free expression of ideas.”
Decent citizens must call or write to remind Brody of the true meaning of the skeleton that hangs in the Sigma Chi house. It is not a monument to racism. It is a symbol of what happens to students who dare to poke fun at the official religion of John Hopkins University. That religion is political correctness. And every day at Hopkins is a Holy day of worship.