Halloween Ethics Meets Campus Ethics Meets The First Amendment, And Stupidly, Too

costume-lunching

I didn’t want to write about this, as I am having to defend too many jerks of late,but multiple readers have flagged it, and besides, there hasn’t been a good Halloween costume controversy this year. This one isn’t good, but it will have to do.

During the University of Wisconsin football home game against Nebraska, one fan in faux prison garb wore a mask of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over his face, and a mask of Obama on the back of his head, as another person wearing a mask of Republican nominee Donald Trump held the end of a noose that was looped around the Hillary/Obama individual’s neck.

Key points:

1. It was Halloween weekend. Costumes were not out of place.

2. It was a two person costume, and an incoherent one that would support multiple interpretations. Was it an attack on Trump, accusing him of being racist or wanting to harm Hillary? Was it an endorsement of Trump, arguing that Hillary should be punished? Was it intended to evoke lynching imagery? Was it saying that Hillary was the equivalent of Obama? A sign worn by Hillary/Obama, which nobody who wasn’t close up could read, concluded, “Bernie 2016.”

3. This was unequivocally political speech, whatever it was supposed to mean.

4. The University has some discretion to forbid expression and conduct at a sporting event that risk creating violence or that are objectively uncivil .

5. Anyone who uses lynching imagery in public, in any connection to a back public figure, or any African American at all, is an asshole at best. This is a public event intended to be entertaining and a family-friendly activity. Using it for political theater is obnoxious. The civil place for this costume, if anywhere, was in front of the stadium, on the sidewalk.

The University handled the episode correctly, with restraint, and while exhibiting proper respect for the First Amendment. It is a state school, remember.

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

According to UW-Madison, Camp Randall Stadium’s guest services staff asked the person wearing the noose to take it off, which he agreed to do during the first half. The fans were allowed to stay in the stadium, officials said. On Monday, UW-Madison spokeswoman Meredith McGlone said, “Stadium staff monitored the fan to ensure that he did not put the noose back on and was prepared to remove him if he did.” However, Wisconsin State Journal photos taken late in the third quarter of Saturday’s game show the duo walking around Camp Randall Stadium with one of them once again wearing the noose and a mask of Clinton…Chancellor Rebecca Blank wrote in a statement that “once the noose was removed, the decision was made that the remainder of the costume fell within the stadium’s costume policies.” Blank and campus officials have said the fans who wore the costume were not ejected because their display was protected by the First Amendment.“The costume, while repugnant and counter to the values of the university and athletic department, was an exercise of the individual’s right to free speech,” read a UW-Madison statement Saturday night.

The response was an ethical one. What was alarming was the attitude of some critics, such as Professor Christy Clark-Pujara, who teaches about the history of lynching in the UW-Madison African-American studies department, who said…

“It’s kind of boilerplate: ‘This is awful, this is not who we are.’”

Why is someone who can make a statement like that permitted to teach anything at an American university?

So it’s “awful”—the First Amendment protects awful, and universities are supposed to debate awful, not censor it based on a biased definition of what “awful” is. I think the costume is saying that Trump, Clinton and Obama are awful. (I agree with that, by the way.) The double costume is a live political cartoon, as about as inept as most political cartoons, but a political statement nonetheless.

By what authority is it “boilerplate” that any expression that someone finds “awful” should be suppressed? Only according to the restrictive and increasingly totalitarian sensibilities of the far Left is this considered a valid assumption, and it is an anti-democratic assumption. Who is this professor to declare that “This is not who we are”? She is endorsing conformity of ideas and opinions, and groupthink, enforced by state power. That is not what the United States is, though she is free to argue otherwise. She can even wear a costume about it.

For once, a university handles an incident rationally and without political bias, and it is rewarded by the Left attacking it for not restricting opinions that it finds “awful.”

_____________

Pointer: Multiple Ethics Alarms readers

35 Comments

Filed under Etiquette and manners, History, Race, Rights, Sports, U.S. Society

35 responses to “Halloween Ethics Meets Campus Ethics Meets The First Amendment, And Stupidly, Too

  1. Photo you missed…

  2. There is, shall we say, a spirited exchange about this underway at the local paper Wisconsin State Journal website.

    http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/education/university/uw-madison-criticized-for-response-to-costume-that-depicted-obama/article_a49bfe5a-60e7-5c28-bde2-bb4e720c7669.html?

    Some are laughably claiming that a “noose” is a weapon” and a “symbol” of the Confederacy.

    Admittedly I don’t have the resources of other great minds, but try as I might, I could find nowhere that a “noose” is considered a weapon, or was considered a ”symbol” of the Confederacy.

    Except in the feverish minds of the Social Justice Warriors, that is; anyone know otherwise?

    If that’s not enough, it’s been floated that if readers don’t like the comments, and I quote: ”If you’re disturbed by the racist trolls on here, file a Civil Right complaint with the DOJ”

    Say what??? There’s more.

    ”A Federal Civil Rights complaint against UW is just because they don’t otherwise allow knives, guns, box cutters, other weapons in the stadium, but they allowed a noose..which is a weapon. They reviewed and allowed a weapon, a noose, at a game. Why?”

    Jeepers! Leave it to a couple of morons, at least one of whom is a “Feel The Bern” guy, to sully my Badger’s 3rd victory over a Top Ten Team this season.

    Are these some of the basement-dwelling “Fucking dumb young people” to whom the Clinton camp so tolerantly refers?

    Some of the commentators surely are!

  3. Isaac

    We should just amend the Constitution so that things that awful things, uncool things, and like, totally wrong things are all subject to punishment by law. I think everyone can agree with that common-sense solution.

  4. In a sense, isn’t that what this article is doing? Attacking someone (the Professor) for expressing an opinion you find awful? 🙂

    Not that what you’re doing is wrong either of course (in fact, in my viewpoint and opinion it is correct), you have every right to express your First Amendment views as well. But I don’t see much difference in what you are doing with this article and what the Professor stated in her comment.

    • What????? She was advocating that the students be thrown out of the stadium for expressing an opinion, just because she finds it awful. I am saying that professors hostile to free speech and the Constitution should not teach in State universities, and they shouldn’t. She has a right to make whatever idiotic statements she chooses, on her own time. Idiots do not have a right to pass on idiocy to students. If the costumed individuals were professors, they should be fired, but not kicked out of the stadium.

      Where’s the comparison??? Whose right have I declared should be abridged?

      • Wait, aren’t you a professor (of Ethics) about free speech and the Constitution as well? You should be MORE in favor of someone being allowed to express their opinion, and use their right to free speech to do so, even if they’re a professor at a college expressing something you do not believe as well.

        The comparison is you are trying to defend First Amendment Free Speech, but then attacking someone for expressing their opinion using their First Amendment free speech rights. In fact this might be worse then what she is doing (being she is probably biased towards lynching as she is a professor of African American studies). You’re stating she should not be able to be a professor, because her viewpoint and opinion does not match yours. And you’re abridging the professors rights to do so.

        On a personal note, I think she’s an idiot, and don’t agree with her opinion at all. But do think she should have the right to state it.

        • It is like arguing that someone has the right to sell themselves into slavery. As a teacher at a liberal arts institution, she is arguing that ideas and expression should not be allowed, and indeed should be punished, if they do not fit a community’s enforces positions. She can and should teach about such view. She may not advocate those view as a professor, just as she cannot advocate white supremacy, or argue that those who acknowledge the Holocaust should be punished. There are definitely values a university should, must stand for. A student can argue for censorship, a professor or administrator must not.

          • Which is still exactly what you’re doing. You’re a professor. You’re stating (her) ideas and expression should not be allowed and should be punished, (since) they do not conform to your viewpoint. Hers do not match yours, so she should not teach. She should also NOT be allowed to express that opinion (which you are clearly doing right now yourself) You are a professor, teaching that ideas and expressions should be allowed, but yet stating the opposite in this case. Should you be forced to quit your position because of that, since you are a professor? I don’t believe that, and don’t believe she should either. I will think she’s an idiot, I won’t agree with her, but stating a professor cannot speak or teach about a subject or opinion you do not believe in, is limiting her rights to free speech as much as others.

            As a teacher, specifically of lynching of African american history, her opinion on the subject seems to fall under something she should be able to express about. On a personal and professional level. To her, any symbolism of, or demonstration of, a black man being lynched (president or not) would be “not who we are” in her viewpoint. In her “expert” opinion on the subject matter, she would feel that punishment for doing so is appropriate.

            Your argument also then implies that no professor or anyone at any level of any organization, outside of the CEO/leader, is allowed to think or express that punishment is allowed for anything. If someone showed up in a KKK outfit, or dressed up as gas chamber with dead Jews in it, that no one is allowed to say anything about it. Because that is censorship on their part for saying so.

            • I am saying the professors who chill speech and expression on campus rather than encourage it and discourse regarding the ideas expressed is in the wrong profession. It’s simple Kant: if every professor was like this one, higher education would be impossible., just indoctrination. (And by the way, too many professors are like this one.)

              This—Your argument also then implies that no professor or anyone at any level of any organization, outside of the CEO/leader, is allowed to think or express that punishment is allowed for anything. If someone showed up in a KKK outfit, or dressed up as gas chamber with dead Jews in it, that no one is allowed to say anything about it. Because that is censorship on their part for saying so—is complete and utter distortion. I argued nothing of the sort. Now you reveal your complaint as a complete straw man. I was discussing universities and only universities, and speech thereon, by students, being censored on the basis of content, which violates free expression. A Professor is a position of authority: this professor’s statement has the effect of chilling student speech. No, a professor should not have the right to do that in a professional capacity, regarding a particular statement and particular individual. Such an individual is free to write a treatise or give a lecture advocating censorship and group think, and the university is within its rights to tell such a professor that as such a position is antithetical to a liberal education, he should seek employment elsewhere.

              I am not currently a professor.

      • Chris

        She was advocating that the students be thrown out of the stadium for expressing an opinion, just because she finds it awful.

        Where did the professor say this? Not in the quote you provided, which prompted you to say she shouldn’t be allowed to be a professor, and not anywhere else in the linked article that I can see:

        Professor Christy Clark-Pujara, who teaches about the history of lynching in the UW-Madison African-American studies department, was one of several people who took issue with the university’s response to the incident.

        “It’s kind of boilerplate: ‘This is awful, this is not who we are,'” Clark-Pujara said.

        Although Blank and campus officials condemned the costume, Clark-Pujara said their statements glossed over the brutal history of lynchings, in which thousands of black men and women were killed, and fell short of teaching students about why the image of Obama in a noose is so appalling.

        She said UW-Madison’s statements also failed to acknowledge that the costume was part of broader problems people of color face at the predominantly white institution, where a series of racially charged incidents this spring led to protests and several new programs aimed at improving the climate on campus.

        “This is a really big deal and it should be treated that way,” she said.

        I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a professor argue such speech should have been restricted, but this professor doesn’t seem to have done that.

  5. The university’s response was appropriate, although I never get what someone means when tsomething is “counter to the values of the university. . . ” Which values? Education? Liberty? Freedom of Thought? Freedom of Expression? Critical Analysis?

    However, I read Professor Christy Clark-Pujara’s comments a little differently. I think her comments were directed at the University’s lack of disciplinary action against the offending students for their offensive costume, dismissing the First Amendment/Free Speech issues as irrelevant, especially at a predominantly white institution as UW. According to the linked article, Professor Clark-Pujara thought action should have been taken against the students and the university’s response was anemic at best. That is more frightening as are the musings of one Twitter person named, @woahohkatie (whom she says white men describe her as a radical. intersectional feminist. ally), who asked,

    “At the @UWBadgers game and there is a man with a mask of President Obama and a noose. This is racism, why was this allowed into the stadium?”

    Professor Clark-Pujara said UW-Madison’s statements also failed to acknowledge that the costume was part of broader problems people of color face at the predominantly white institution, where a series of racially charged incidents this spring led to protests and several new programs aimed at improving the climate on campus.

    “This is a really big deal and it should be treated that way,” she said. She further stated, “[a]lthough Blank and campus officials condemned the costume, Clark-Pujara said their statements glossed over the brutal history of lynchings, in which thousands of black men and women were killed, and fell short of teaching students about why the image of Obama in a noose is so appalling. She said UW-Madison’s statements also failed to acknowledge that the costume was part of broader problems people of color face at the predominantly white institution, where a series of racially charged incidents this spring led to protests and several new programs aimed at improving the climate on campus.’This is a really big deal and it should be treated that way,'” she said.

    Let’s get to know the good professor. Professort Clark-Pujara is a professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison African-American studies department, concentrating on lynchings. She shows documentaries and visual images of lynchings as a part of her coursework but, to her credit, she does not issue ‘trigger warnings’ to her students (which is apparently contrary to the growing trend at the college or university level). No, she doesn’t. She simply does not allow students to opt out of watching or viewing such imagery, in part out of an obligation she feels to the subjects of the history she teaches. She thinks, “it’s important to share the whole of their experiences, and I don’t think that we should edit it for our own comfort,”

    See, http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/education/university/amid-free-speech-debate-uw-madison-professors-say-trigger-warnings/article_55a992e6-8ab7-5a29-9c94-cbaa9993b462.html

    So, she doesn’t think trigger warnings are necessary but students are forced to watch graphic documentaries and images of lynched Blacks. I am not sure what is worse.

    jvb

  6. Frank Stephens

    When I attended a state university our professors believed the main purpose of education was to strengthen our minds so that we could more easily learn to deal with specific challenges we would face throughout our life. To that end they took great delight in challenging our closely held ideals and values.

    We did not have “safe spaces” to run to when we were challenged or got our feelings hurt

    For 50 years, researchers have surveyed incoming college freshmen about everything from their majors to their worldviews. Recently, the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles released the latest iteration of this survey.

    According to the findings, the current crop of freshmen can lay claim to multiple superlatives. Among them: most willing to shut down speech they find offensive.

    About 71 percent of freshmen surveyed in the fall said they agreed with the statement that “colleges should prohibit racist/sexist speech on campus.” This question has been asked on and off for a couple of decades, and 2015 logged the highest percentage of positive responses on record.

    Leftists educators are killing education in America.

  7. girraffe

    From the picture supplied in the first comment, is it reasonable to interpret the absence of racism due to the orientation of the noose holder being that which would appear to hold Hillary in a noose, not the character?

    • I think it could well be argued that there was nothing racially intended about the costumes and the noose, but anyone who doesn’t have ethics alarms ringing like crazy any time a noose is used withing 50 miles of a black figure is too stupid to dress himself.

  8. Wayne

    The two idiots involved in their “protected free speech” costumes/noose costumes were lucky they didn’t get lynched or at least beat up. I wonder if they might have been agent provacteurs.

  9. Other Bill

    I’m confused. Was she simply saying the noose aspect of the pageant was awful? If so, I don’t think I see anything wrong with her saying that.

    • Chris

      She said the university should have done more, but the article doesn’t quote her as specifically saying how. Jack says she wanted the students thrown out of the statement, but I don’t see any evidence of that.

      • Other Bill

        I think the noose was awful but also think the university having them get rid of the noose was acceptable and sufficient. If they ignored the request to get rid of the noose and continued with it, which they evidently did, I think they should have been tossed out of the stadium at that point. But I’m not an ACLUer. I suppose if they were walking around in full NAZI regalia or Klan robes, the school couldn’t have done a thing.

        • Frank Stephens

          There are no laws against stupid. They were peacefully attempting to make a statement and within their rights doing so. Stupid? Sure. Clumsy? Without a doubt. Illegal? No. UofW has “safe spaces” for those students who cannot handle being confronted with protected speech.

  10. Other Bill

    A full professor who only teaches a course on lynching? An entire college course about nothing other than lynching?

    • Wayne

      Well in order for the course to be complete it would have to cover lynching of rustlers and cattle thieves (*Oxbow Incident*), Allied Airmen in WW2, bloody Kansas, and so on. I really don’t think it would be a popular course though.

  11. Neil A. Dorr

    Jack,

    “It’s kind of boilerplate: ‘This is awful, this is not who we are.’”

    He may have called for censorship elsewhere, but I don’t see anything wrong with this quote as presented here. He’s merely expressed a reaction to expression he dislikes. Why provide a quote that expresses an opinion and nothing more?

    “.. not who we are.” could mean “we’re not Bernie supporters here.” or “we’re not a community who believes inflammatory rhetoric is an ideal way to start dialogue.” More nefarious interpretation is possible, but the quote itself is fine.

  12. Spartan

    Why not allow the noose as well? I think that this type of speech is awful, but if you’re going to allow it, then allow it in all its ugly glory.

  13. zoebrain

    I’ve been disagreeing with you a lot lately, Jack.

    Not on this one though. You hit the bullseye.

  14. Neil A. Dorr

    Jack,
    I can’t help but notice you haven’t responded to one comment pointing out the quote you provided asserts little of what you say it asserts. I’m not suggesting you’re wrong in this case, only I’m curious your answer.

    • Just missed it, that’s all. Thanks for the pointer. I really don’t understand what Chris was getting at. It’s clear to me that the quote criticized the school for not punishing the expression. What else could it mean?

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