I just received an email from the Democratic National Committee urging me to protest Betsy DeVos’s (completely valid and overdue) withdrawal of the “Dear Colleague Letter” by which the Obama Department of Education pressured universities into dispensing with due process when a male student is accused of sexual assault. “Tell Trump and DeVos not to undo President Obama’s policies to combat sexual assault on campus!” it bleats. The e-mail blast (if I ever find out who put me on this list, there will be blood), quotes DeVos, as if this advances their case, as saying, “If everything is harassment, then nothing is harassment.”
The Education Secretary was exactly right, and a story today from Reason shows why.
Joshua Zale, a student at Moraine Valley Community College, was asked by his drama instructor to play a pimp asking for money from another student, playing the role of a prostitute in an improvisation exercise. Improvisation means that the actors work without a script. In the process of the improv, Zale used an “unacceptable word” according to the instructor, who was apparently improvising the role of a fool. The teacher immediately reprimanded Zale, who later insisted on a private meeting to learn why he had been attackedfor using a word he felt was consistent with the role he had been assigned. Assistant Dean Lisa Kelsay subsequently accused Zale of violating Title IX—the weapon of choice in the “Dear Colleague Letter”—and school conduct policies by sexually harassing his acting partner “as a woman.”
No one has yet divulged what this “unacceptable” word was. I have taught improvisation. I am a pretty creative guy, with a fairly extensive vocabulary. I cannot imagine any word, from Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis to supercalifragilisticexpialidocious to Bill Maher’s favorite, cunt, to “penis breath,” uttered by a child in the opening minutes of “E.T.”, that would be “inappropriate” in an improv, especially in a scene involving a sex worker and a pimp.
As you know, ethics stories often remind me of TV shows and movies. This one (see the video clip above) reminds me of a famous “MASH” episode, “The General Flipped At Dawn,” in which Harry Morgan, later to play lovable, crusty old Col. Potter, played an insane general. Reviewing the MASH squad, he asks Radar, “Where are you from, son?” Radar answers, “Iowa, sir..” only to have the General scream, “NO TALKING IN RANKS!!!!”
Maybe the improv instructor, Craig Rosen, flipped too. That would be an excuse, at least. But how do you explain the Assistant Dean?
School administrators demanded that Zale write an mea culpa essay called “What I learned from this incident” to include a demonstration of his fealty to the college’s core values, or else he would have a hold placed on his student account that would prevent him from registering for classes.
I also can’t imagine a harsh word that would be inappropriate to describe that demand.
I couldn’t fit it into the headline, but Josh Zale is an Ethics Hero. He refused to write the indoctrination essay, he refused to attend a subsequent disciplinary hearing, contending the school refused to allow him to confront his accusers, and he’s suing his school.
Administrators have retaliated by blocking his registration, claiming he violated the student conduct code on “physical/verbal abuse or harassment.”
I want to know if there are really progressives and Democrats out there who think this kind of conduct by the school is “acceptable,” and if any one of them can mount an intelligent argument for keeping the Obama standards that led directly to the improv “gotcha!”
Freedom of speech, academic freedom, fairness, creativity, common sense, proportion, due process: is there anything the new Left won’t throw on the bonfire in its mad worship of political correctness and victim mongering?
Pointer: Other Bill