Unethical Quote of the Week: University of Wisconsin-Stout Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen

"Oh, HELP me, University administrators! A poster says that a fictional space cowboy from a TV series that isn't on anymore might kill me, or someone, under certain conditions!"

“UW-Stout administrators believe strongly in the right of all students, faculty and staff to express themselves freely about issues on campus and off.  This freedom is fundamental on a public university campus. However, we also have the responsibility to promote a campus environment that is free from threats of any kind—both direct and implied. It was our belief, after consultation with UW System legal counsel, that the posters in question constituted an implied threat of violence.  That is why they were removed. This was not an act of censorship.  This was an act of sensitivity to and care for our shared community, and was intended to maintain a campus climate in which everyone can feel welcome, safe and secure.”

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, one featuring a humorous quote from a cult TV science fiction series, the other a satiric poster opposing fascism, as in cases where speech-censoring university administrators remove harmless pop culture references they don’t understand. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “The University of Wisconsin’s Lesson: Ignorance + Political Correctness = Repression”

Michael posted the Comment of the Day (though I am posting it here a day late), discussing the plight of the U. of Wisconsin professor whose “Firefly” poster was deemed to create an unacceptable risk of violence. Here is his perceptive addendum to  The University of Wisconsin’s Lesson: Ignorance + Political Correctness = Repression:

“I think you are missing another force at work here: the bureaucracy . They have gladly embraced the political correctness of the liberal majority on campus, not because they necessarily believe in it, but because it lets them have power. There is a wonderful quote from P.J. O’Rourke on this, “bureaucracy is attractive because it gives every piss-ant an anthill to piss from”. Chief Walker got to exercise arbitrary and petty authority in tearing down the posters. People who enjoy the exercise of unrestrained power over people are attracted to such positions. By challenging her, Miller was challenging the entire bureaucratic ruling class of the university, and that couldn’t be allowed. From that moment on, he was going to be picked on and subject to unreasonable scrutiny, subjected to endless requests to comply with the most outrageous interpretations of every University regulation. He will be subjected to endless meetings to explain and justify every time he goes to the bathroom before a “Hearing consisting of both faculty and administrators”:

“Section IV, paragraph 5 of the faculty clearly state that “when not teaching, faculty should be available to students”. By using the men’s room, you were unavailable to female students. This was a blatantly sexist act of your part and under my authority as gender relations officer are ordering you to attend sensitivity training.”

The University of Wisconsin’s Lesson: Ignorance + Political Correctness = Repression

Why does a defunct cult TV space Western threaten the University of Wisconsin? Good Question!

As in the disturbing incident at Widener Law School, in which a professor has been persecuted and punished for the imagined sexist and racist implications in his  fanciful classroom hypothetical, a theater professor at the University of Wisconsin in Stout, is now being subjected to full-fledged censorship by the university’s administration because of a pop culture reference that it finds “threatening.”

And also as in the Widener situation, one wonders if the school’s faculty cares enough about academic freedom and free speech to support their colleague. So far, they have not.

Prof. James Miller is, like me, a fan of “Firefly,”  Joss Whedon’s late, lamented science fiction TV series. He mounted a poster on his door that shows actor Nathan Fillion as Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds, captain of the spaceship that cruised through the series.  The poster includes a famous line (well, famous with fans of the show, at least) by Reynolds in the first episode,  delivered in response to a passenger who asked if he was in danger of being murdered while he slept. “You don’t know me, son, so let me explain this to you once,” Fillion’s character said. “If I ever kill you, you’ll be awake. You’ll be facing me. And you’ll be armed.”

Lisa Walter, the university’s chief of police, took down the poster, stating that “it is unacceptable to have postings such as this that refer to killing.” Walter said that the poster was not covered by the First Amendment:

“ We were notified of the existence of the posting, reviewed it and believe that the wording on the poster can be interpreted as a threat by others and/or could cause those that view it to believe that you are willing/able to carry out actions similar to what is listed. This posting can cause others to fear for their safety, thus it was removed.”

Absurd. Ignorant. Offensive.  And an abuse of power. Continue reading