Author's Note: The idea for this column isn't terribly original, as this YouTube video attests.
Some readers have written questioning my series of columns lampooning the lavender graduation at UNC-Wilmington. That is the ceremony where UNCW graduates are given purple cords to show that they are gay and lavender cords to show they approve of homosexuality. Students then wear these cords when they get their degrees at the university-wide graduation ceremony.
Some self-proclaimed conservatives have reasoned that since participation in the ceremony is optional, lavender graduation isn't a topic worthy of column space. That view is misguided as it fails to account for ingrained patterns in our institutional history, which show that today's "option" is often tomorrow's mandate. So these columns are about more than sexual identity politics. They also have implications for freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. Consider the example of our now-infamous Seahawk Respect Compact.
Some years ago, a staff member wrote to me in distress because he was being pressured into signing the respect compact. He feared that there would be repercussions for not signing it, even though it was said to be optional. Since then, there have been three developments with regard to the compact.
1. The compact is now mandatory for staff and students. Whether enrolling as a student at UNCW or accepting a job at UNCW, members of our university community are now simply told that they are bound by the respect compact. In fact, professors often email students at the beginning of the semester to remind them that classroom discussions are governed by it. Of course, that is patently false. In fact, it's disrespectful to the constitution, which is the final authority on speech in a public university classroom.
2. Prosecutions are occurring under the authority of the Dean of Students. Not only is the respect compact no longer optional at UNCW but it is actually binding under the threat of suspension or expulsion. One of my students learned this the hard way a couple of years ago when he criticized a school policy and was then placed on probation by the Dean of Students Office. One more offense for "disrespect" and he would have been expelled. Regrettably, he made the mistake of declining to sue UNCW for violating his right to criticize them. Undoubtedly, other prosecutions will follow in the wake of his capitulation.
3. Postings of the Seahawk Respect Compact are mandatory in all classrooms and offices. Literally hundreds of these framed compacts are posted across the campus so that no conversation ever takes place without one present. This creates a serious chilling effect on free speech. Whenever someone speaks, there is a respect compact staring right back at him as a reminder that only "respectful" speech is tolerated. Surely, the university cannot deem constant government supervision of speech to be a sign of respect. Actually, these "play nice" signs are the antithesis of respect. They are condescending and better suited for the kindergarten playground than the college classroom.
So what will become of the lavender graduation cord option, which is now offered by UNCW to show support for homosexuality? Will it also become mandatory in the near future? I think you already know my answer. So here are a few of my predictions for the future of lavender graduation at UNCW.
1. Mandatory lavender cords for university-wide graduation. The university will try to mandate wearing a lavender cord at graduation, despite the fact that "man-date" is patently sexist terminology. Along with many others, I will personally refuse to wear the cord, which will cause the university to ramp up its efforts.
2. Lavender will be added to our school colors as a result of push back on #1. Our current school colors are gold, teal, and navy blue. I predict that the university will switch to gold, purple, and lavender and that they will incorporate those colors into all faculty and student graduation gowns. Pretty soon, it will seem like everyone is behind this whole lavender graduation concept.
3. Bakers will be forced to bake for lavender graduation. Of course, there is no good reason why we should do away with the separate graduation ceremony where people are given lavender and purple cords to wear with their gowns. But with all these graduation ceremonies people are bound to get hungry. Therefore, we'll need lots of cake and cookies to give people the energy they will need to listen to all those boring graduation speakers who are still talking about George W. Bush - and blaming him for refusing to implement lavender graduation ceremonies at the Citadel and West Point. So they'll need lots of cookies. We should also set aside a $700,000 slush fund just in case UNCW does not prevail in a legal effort to force dissenters to cook them.
4. Photographers will be forced to take photos for lavender graduation. Again, this could be risky because many of the local Wilmington photographers are out-of-the-closet Christians. But the Attorney General will likely take the case. Roy Cooper never misses an opportunity to punish Christians for refusing to stay in the closet and adopt the official UNC religion of moral relativism.
5. Churches will be sought after to host lavender graduation. In fact, this might cause UNCW to do the unthinkable and invite an evangelical pastor to speak at UNCW graduation. Of course, the pastor will decline and that will give the attorney general a good opportunity to launch another anti-Christian legal crusade - all in the name of tolerance and diversity.
I know that for my readers this all seems a little ominous. But you should have seen it coming. The words "optional" and "inclusiveness" should have tipped you off.