Ethics Dunce: Friends University (Kansas), Or “Why Do Colleges Find That Free Speech Thingy So Complicated?”

Cutting to the metaphorical chase: Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, refused to allow a student recital honors project titled “The Shows They Don’t Want Us to Produce: A Study of Censorship Throughout the History of Musical Theatre,” to take place on campus. Yes, Caitlyn Fox’s show about censorship was censored.

Brilliant.

Some of the songs Fox would sing in her recital were “Aquarius” from “Hair,” “Maybe This Time” from “Cabaret,” “Gethsemane” from “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Schadenfreude” from “Avenue Q” and “My Unfortunate Erection” from “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” among others. The program had been approved, Fox had been assured that all was well, and then the university’s vice president of academic affairs and dean of the faculty sent Fox an email that kicked the recital off campus. He wrote in part:

“I’m writing to let you know that in the past few hours we have received significant complaints from staff members and donors regarding [your] Recital/Honors Project. People who have worked at and/or supported the university for a long time are considering withdrawing their support if we move forward with having the recital at Friends.”

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/24/2021: Morning’s Not The Only Thing That’s Broken…

On October 24, 1945, the United Nations Charter became effective, marking this date as the international organization’s official birthday. What a disappointment the U.N. has been! The idea of a body made up of representatives of the nations of the world dedicated to promoting peace and mutual cooperation for the good of humanity was always a quixotic and probably doomed mission, one shared by the U.N.’s ill-conceived predecessor, Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations.

I am old enough, however, to remember when the American public believed in and respected the U.N. Its meetings were broadcast regularly by PBS; the U.N’s second Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld was one of the world’s most admired men, and the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. (ironically, since his father had effectively killed the League of Nations by blocking the U.S.’s membership in the new body in the Senate), was immensely popular. The U.N. has had its moments, notably during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, but it squandered the public’s trust with outrageous committee appointments, placing brazen human rights violators on its Human Rights Council for example (currently Russia, China and Cuba are members), persistent efforts at world government, which is and should always be an offense to the U.S. Constitution, and corruption at the highest levels that have become impossible to excuse. Today the United Nations’ existence is largely symbolic. Maybe that’s enough to justify the expense, but we once thought the United Nations would be so much more.

1. Searching for an ethical news aggregator...but I can’t find one. I visited the Drudge Report for the first time in months, and saw this link: FACEBOOK Faulted by Staff Over Insurrection…

Drudge has been abandoned by many conservatives over the site’s decision to spin anti-Trump, but continuing to call the January 6 riot an “insurrection” after the FBI’s report conclusively showed it wasn’t one is signature significance for a propaganda site. Over at the aggregator that has snatched away Drudge’s Trump-supporting audience, Citizen Free Press, the coverage of the unfolding Alec Baldwin gunfire accident includes this headline: “PHOTOS — This is the woman Alec Baldwin put in charge of firearms for his low budget film…” and this image of the film’s armorist:

shooting armorist

Oh, I see! Based on her looks, we know she must have been incompetent! This is nothing but bigotry, and it is why so many people detest conservatives.

2. Until more people show some courage and principles, this kind of thing will only become more frequent and get worse. Witness the revolting development from Coastal Carolina University. The College Fix reports:

“On September 16, students filed into a classroom, and some students noted the names of several students of color were written on a whiteboard at the front of the class. Thinking this was some sort of list singling out minority students, the offended students planned a campus protest on September 21 instead of going to class.But the names were actually part of a list of students who may want to hang out together, drawn up by a visiting artist who had been counseling two students of color after the previous class. One of the students had said she felt isolated and wanted to get to know other minority students in the theater department, so the group brainstormed a list of potential friends. The school later admitted the list was “a resource for newer students who are looking to be in community with other BIPOC students.”

Never mind; Facts Don’t Matter! The school apologized to the mistakenly offended students with a statement that “faculty and students involved as well as the Theatre Department as a whole are deeply sorry to anyone who was affected by this incident.” That’s right: the school apologized to the students for the students leaping to conclusions and protesting before they knew what they were protesting about. Not only that, the visiting artist who created the list to help the minority students also apologized, calling her actions “thoughtless and careless.” Yes, it is certainly careless to assume that students in the era of The Great Stupid will be capable of being fair, responsible, and reasonable when they have unlimited power to make administrators and instructors lick their metaphorical boots on a whim.

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Ethics Heroes Of The Great Stupid: University Of Texas Alumni Donors

Back in October of last year, this Ethics Warm-up related the truly ridiculous story of how the University of Texas’s school song, and a beloved Texas folk song as well, was being called “racist,” and some of the schools football players were calling for it to be “cancelled.” University President Jay Hartzell reacted with Authentic Frontier Gibberish: who knows what he was saying? He outlined steps UT would take to “recruit, attract, retain and support Black students,” while his statement said that he preferred to “acknowledge and teach about all aspects of the origins of ‘The Eyes of Texas’ as we continue to sing it moving forward with a redefined vision that unites our community.” What he should have said was that there is nothing whatsoever racist about the song, and his university was not going to be bullied and race-baited into changing revered school traditions just so social justice warriors and woke mobs can add another notch to their metaphorical belts.

You see, the claim that the song has “racist undertones” is simply false. You will search for them in the lyrics fruitlessly:

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My Georgetown Diploma Joins My Harvard Diploma In Facing The Wall In Shame

Georgetown has apparently programmed its victims of a liberal education to not only believe in the suppression of free speech and dissent from the majority, but to engage in it. Nice.

By the way, Georgetown, the backs of Harvard’s diplomas are much more attractive than the backs of yours.

Georgetown University junior Billy Torgerson received a formal condemnation from  the Georgetown University Student Association as well as a call for the college to investigate him for “bias” based on a column, “A Nation Of Virtuous Individuals,” that he authored and posted on his own website.

That’s all you need to know, really. It is none of the Student Association’s business what a Georgetown student posts online on his own forum. The principle articulated in the recent Supreme Court case B.L v. Mahanoy Area School District holds even if the action of a student group doesn’t strictly constitute what the opinion prohibits. This is chilling free speech.

Torgerson’s primary “crime” seems to be that he opposes another recent SCOTUS ruling,  Bostock v. Clayton County, which extended protections under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to transgender individuals.  I think he’s wrong, but Torgerson’s position is similar to that of the  three dissenting judges  and many conservative analysts. And it doesn’t matter if he’s wrong. He has every right to state his opinion without being punished. Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms Corrupt And Cowardly Colleges Files: Marquette And Penn State

I’m sorry. I really am. These stories get worse and worse, far beyond anything I could have imagined just  a few years ago. I am so relieved that my son decided long ago that for him, college would be a waste of money and time. This has spared me the chore of explaining to him that it would be a waste of his values and mind as well.

First, let’s look at the latest chapter in the Marquette debacle involving Samantha Pfefferle, the incoming freshman who became an object of revulsion and terror because she dared to post a harmless, infantile video proclaiming her support for President Trump. The first part of the story dawned on Ethics Alarms this morning, here. Now we know that Mike Lovell, the president of Marquette, sent an email to Marquette’s Board of Trustees about the incident. The email was a dishonest, dastardly misrepresentation that would fully justify his firing for cause if the trustees had the curiosity and integrity to investigate the facts. Here I’m going to send you to John Hinderaker’s blog, Powerline, to read his expert vivisection of Lovell’s slimy machinations. I’m leaving it to him for two reasons. First, Hinderaker is a a skilled legal mind, and he does a superb job. Second, his blog is specifically mentioned, and denigrated, in in the president’s email.

The last time Marquette was mentioned critically here was in 2015, through the attentions of MIA Ethics Alarms commenter Rick Jones, aka “Curmie.” Rick, who used to give out his annual “Curmie Awards” for outrageous conduct in academia, nominated Marquette for firing a tenured professor who wrote a blog post that criticized a graduate student teaching assistant for telling a student that his opinion opposing gay marriage was homophobic and would not be permitted in her class.

Curmie was right and Marquette was wrong: a court later reinstated the professor and held the university liable for breaching his  “contract’s guarantee of academic freedom.”  The latest episode show that the school’s progressive intolerance for non-conforming view has metastasized since Curmie’s nomination.

John Hinderaker  titled his latest post “Marquette Weasels.” If that conduct was weaselly, what do we call this, from Penn State? Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Hero: Michael Shellenberger”

I had two Comments of the Day to choose from to greet the morning. This one, by Lumiere, was the less depressing of the two, so you can imagine what the other one was like. However, The last paragraph in the post, a comment on the climatologist who admits in a new book that he joined his colleagues in hyping and fearmongering,  gives me hope.

My mind was already on indoctrination and the way our scientists, scholars and educators have abused the public’s trust. A truly frightening story was revealed by College Fix: an incoming freshman at Marquette, Samantha Pfefferle,  posted a (silly and obnoxious) pro-Trump video on the social media site Tik Tok, and administrators at the school began suggesting to her that her admission might be revoked because of her unacceptable beliefs. What was unacceptable about them was that, based on the video, she supported the President of the United States, ergo his policy positions. The Horror.

Pfefferle explained that following the TikTok, she was contacted by Brian Troyer, dean of undergraduate admissions at Marquette, who she said told her her acceptance to the school was far from certain.

“[He] had the heart to tell me I wasn’t a student,” Pfefferle said. “This means that my classification is still in limbo and is currently being decided by the administration. I have been accepted, I paid for my housing, I have my roommates, I even have a complete class schedule. If that doesn’t make me a student, what does?”

Some Marquette administrators also asked Pfefferle a series of questions meant to judge her morals, she said.

“They also asked me hypothetical questions regarding Dreamers,” she said. “How would I respond if a Dreamer who lived down the hall from me came up to me and told me she didn’t feel safe or comfortable with my views and me being on campus. They also asked me if they thought there was anything I could do to improve my image on campus. They proceeded to ask if I was comfortable with the reputation I have established for myself. The assistant dean asked if I put any thought into the response I would be getting from my videos.”

The “response” she was getting from her video was threats, harassment and intimidation, perhaps from Marquette students. Strange: that would seem to be the problem that administrators had a legitimate reason to be concerned about. No, they apparently approved, since the college officials decided to engage in some intimidation of their own: “Nice little college acceptance you have here…too bad if something were to happen to it..”

I would normally be skeptical that any administrators from a reputable college would challenge a student’s political opinions in the manner Pfefferle described, but Marquette confirmed that  “the admissions team did recently have a conversation with incoming freshman Samantha Pfefferle about statements made on her social media accounts.” After unwelcome publicity on several blogs and conservative websites, Marquette announced that the student’s acceptance was not in peril and had been finalized, firmly placing what the school did in the “it’s not the worst thing” category.

It was bad enough. It is unethical for educational institutions to promote viewpoint conformity among their students, yet this incident, like the confession of the suddenly remorseful climate scientist, indicates that this is increasingly how our professionals whose duty is to enlighten us see their roles: not to inform, but to indoctrinate.

Here is Lumiere’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Hero: Michael Shellenberger:

What this is? Is scary.

Not just for climate science but for EVERY SINGLE THING that has been promoted or supported by the left in the name of Science. And the willingness to punish, and silence people who disagree because “How dare you reject science?”…

The problem is mostly in the narrative. What is left out? what is emphasized? What is implied? For example “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah claims to be an objective evolutionary history of humankind (it leaves out many facts and is full of many assumptions) reads totally as socialist cant, with sufficient human bashing that presents human existence as the worst thing that has ever happened to the earth. Now a person who reads that book as their introduction to human biological history would accept its postulations as facts, become indoctrinated and would have their view of humankind changed drastically for the worse.

This kind of indoctrination is the reality in many fields of human endeavour and it’s sad to see people form such emotional attachments to ideas that makes rational discourse almost impossible

One thing I’ve learnt to do is always ask myself the question “What if you are Wrong?”. I always ask myself that question on EVERYTHING. And it informs my attitude to contrary and differing opinions…

Great. Now We’re Cancelling Bells…

BAD bell! BAD BELL. Nobody likes you, Bell. You’ve been bad!

Apparently Louisiana’s Tulane University believes in curses, or maybe it is the irredeemability of inanimate objects. What ever you want to call it, its theory is bats.

In a letter emailed to the Tulane community, President Mike Fitts and Board Chairman Doug Hertz said they were informed last week that the “Victory Bell” was originally used to direct the movements of enslaved people on a plantation. This means, apparently, that the bell itself is no longer fit to be seen or heard by decent people.

“It is terribly disheartening to learn that it is, in fact, a vestige of a horrific part of our nation’s past,” Fitts and Hertz wrote. “Now that we understand its history as an instrument of slavery, continuing to use this bell in a celebratory manner would run counter to our values.”

What values are those, exactly? No wonder substantial numbers among recent generations of Americans think that we are obligated to eradicate all images, symbols, memorials and references to the Confederacy, slavery, Jim Crow or other aspects of racial discrimination, if a piece of metal has to be banished because of what it was rung for over a 150 years ago.

The Victory Bell was cast in 1825 and donated  to the school by  a former Louisiana governor and Tulane law school graduate. Beginning in 1960, the bell stood in front of Fogelman Arena and was rung after Tulane basketball victories for decades. In 2011, the bell was refurbished and moved to the front of the university’s McAlister Auditorium, where, at least as far as anyone can tell, it has not been proselytizing students about the joys of slavery, ringing out “Dixie” all by itself, or attacking unwary students with its clapper. Nonetheless, I’m certain students would tell you that they won’t feel “safe” with a plantation bell around.

It’s a bell. Continue reading

The Ethics Mess That Is U.S. Race Relations, Chapter V: Oklahoma University Loses Its Mind [UPDATED]

Kathleen Brosnan, an Oklahoma University faculty member in the history department, read from a 1920’s U.S. Senate document that included the word “nigger”multiple times.  In another episode, Peter Gade, director of graduate studies for the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication and Gaylord Family endowed chair, compared the use of  “nigger”  to current use  of the phrase “OK, boomer.” (Interesting analogy! Ill-advised, but interesting…) Nobody contends that the word was aimed at any individual or intended to denigrate a race. Nonetheless, laboring under the misconception that words can be banned in the United States, campus protesters calling themselves the “Black Emergency Response Team,” or BERT, have issued a set of demands including the immediate resignation of Provost Kyle Harper, mandatory diversity training for faculty and a new multicultural center.

At one point they also demanded a Popeye’s restaurant on campus, but that one seems to have been abandoned as trivializing their cause.

Wise.

The protestors have begun a hunger strike—no, not just no Popeye’s: behave!—- and have pledged not to leave the administration building they are occupying until their demands are met.( Boy, am I having flashbacks to Harvard Yard, 1968! )Foolishly, the  university’s interim President Joseph Harroz Jr. has apologized for both incidents, calling them unacceptable. (It is not “unacceptable’ to use any word for legitimate pedagogical purposes at a university ) and pledged to require all faculty to undergo diversity training. Here is an excerpt from his letter:

“We are all weary of racially charged incidents occurring within our university community could have made the point without reciting the actual word, [but] she chose otherwise. Her issuance of a ‘trigger warning’ before her recitation does not lessen the pain caused by the use of the word. For students in the class, as well as members of our community, this was another painful experience. It is common sense to avoid uttering the most offensive word in the English language, especially in an environment where the speaker holds the power.”

He is a spineless, principle-free coward, and if the faculty was any better, it would demand the HE resign. Naturally, however, many on the faculty are siding with the students, since they are at least partially responsible for them being this way. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Unethical Quote Of The Week (And Jumbo!) Washington College (in Md.) President Kurt Landgraf”

The nauseating tale of how Washington College in Maryland killed a fully rehearsed and audience-ready student production of the widely acclaimed (and inoffensive) Larry Shue comedy “The Foreigner” on the most flimsy of political correctness pretexts, and then saw the institution’s president absurdly deny that the censorious act was censorship, has begun attracting comment here from the college’s larger community.

Below is a Comment of the Day on my post about the situation, “Unethical Quote Of The Week (And Jumbo!) Washington College (in Md.) President Kurt Landgraf,” submitted by skipm, a 1987 graduate with two BA degrees, including one in drama.

Speaking for a group of about 200-300 (changes daily) alum, we’ve been at odds with the Board of Visitors and Governors due to the cost of the high turnover of administration for years. The lack of transparency in the fiscal and administrative management is deplorable. Calling on the alumni to support half-hearted and complacent efforts to maneuver a private liberal arts college, the 10th oldest college in the country, through this past 10 years makes us grow weary. This censorship is only the latest, most egregious act thus far by the current administration.

You mistake Machiavellian for pure ham-fisted ignorance. Kurt was late to the game on this issue, yet owns and yet in his own moment of “enlightenment” supports the decision fully. If you read the letters to the editor on The Chestertown Spy from one of the affected parents of the cast/crew (https://chestertownspy.org/2019/11/13/wc-parent-open-letter-to-provost-diquinzio-on-foreigner-cancellation/) , or look at the largest social media commented post ( https://tinyurl.com/censorshipwc1) you’ll see the Provost and Dean, and perhaps one other professor, announced the cancellation at the outset of the final dress rehearsal, then locked the doors, allowed the students to work through the play, then walked out at the end with nary a word or huzzah. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week (And Jumbo!) Washington College (in Md.) President Kurt Landgraf

“Elephant? What elephant?” The thing is, Jimmy was playing a CLOWN when he uttered that line, not a college president.

“Our intent in cancelling the production was to prevent further harm to members of our community who already feel marginalized. However, the decision to cancel the play has been interpreted by some as a form of censorship on the part of the College. Censorship is anathema to the core values of Washington College, and this was never our intent.”

—-Kurt Landgraf, president of Washington College in Maryland, in his letter to the campus regarding the decision to cancel a student production of Larry Shue’s 1980 farce “The Foreigner.”

Got that? “Censorship? What censorship? Oh, you mean that thing when we stopped a play from being performed? You call that censorship?”

Yes, the president of an institution of higher learning is really and truly saying in print that administrators cancelled the production of a play, as in “prevented it from being seen,” because of concerns over the content of said play, and the need to protect some students from seeing it, hearing it, or knowing it was being seen and heard by others, yet did not intend this to constitute censorship, which it was by definition.

I’ll publish the whole weaselly, embarrassing letter at the end of the post, because otherwise you might not believe it.

I have seen “The Foreigner.” It’s not a classic by any means, but there is nothing controversial about it, and nothing that would legitimately “trigger” anyone with the sense God gave a trout.  Deciding that “The Foreigner” needs to be censored makes as much sense as blocking a production of “Arsenic and Old Lace.”

The comedy opened Off-Broadway in 1984 and won two Obie Awards and two Outer Critics Circle Awards as Best New American Play and Best Off-Broadway Production. Since then it has been a staple of regional theaters, community theaters, colleges and high schools. A very short version of the plot: Two Englishmen visiting a  fishing lodge in rural Georgia foil the plot of an evil  local Klansman to take over the lodge and use it as a KKK headquarters. The hero, Charlie Baker, pulls this off in part by pretending to be a non-English speaker and talking gibberish, as well as pretend language like ” Klaatu barada nikto” from the classic film “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”  Because people think he can’t understand them, they openly discuss their various plots and schemes in his presence.

The Horror. Continue reading