The “Unacceptable Word” Fiasco: OK, Now I Really Want To Know How Many Progressives Seriously Endorse Stuff Like This?

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? Continue reading

Unethical Op-Ed Of The Month: “Don’t Weaken Title IX Campus Sex Assault Policies” (The New York Times)

Do you know what this monstrosity of an op-ed finds outrageous about Betsey DeVos’s efforts to undue the Obama administration’s “guilty unless proven innocent”  standard for campus rape allegations?  It involves too much due process, as in basic fairness before a citizen is grievously punished and harmed by the determination that he or she has committed a crime.. The authors, Jon Krakauer and Laura L. Dunn, put it this way:

Damn right it does. Before someone is punished for a vile crime like rape or sexual assault, the accuser’s credibility and motives must be established. Astonishingly, with all the horrific examples of men being falsely accused of rape, like here, here, and here, the campus activists, feminists, progressives and the social justice warriors continue to insist that any female accuser should be presumed to be a victim, meaning that the accused is de facto presumed to be guilty.

“Sex-crime trials, like all criminal proceedings, set an extremely high bar for conviction to diminish the chance that an innocent person will be unjustly incarcerated. In contrast, the harshest penalty a university can inflict in a Title IX hearing is expulsion, an outcome that does not demand such a stringent burden of proof. In these hearings, neither party is favored, and by leveling the procedural playing field, Title IX makes it more likely that students will report sexual violence.”

The problem with this supposed fairness of “neither party is favored” is that for one party, there are no negative consequences of an insufficiently-supported accusation being rejected. For the individual accused, the stakes are far greater, life altering and potentially dire. More:

“Whenever a student is accused of sexual assault, university administrators need to render their judgment with tremendous care, because erroneously determining that a student is responsible for sexual misconduct can cause lasting harm. But just as much care needs to be taken to make sure that students who commit sexual assault are not let off the hook.”

In other words, the ends justify the means. This is the same mindset expressed in 2015 by Democratic Congressman  Jared Polis, at a congressional hearing on campus sexual assault. 

He said, earning him an Unethical Quote and an Incompetent Elected Official designation on Ethics Alarms,

“If there’s 10 people that have been accused and under a reasonable likelihood standard maybe one or two did it, seems better to get rid of all 10 people. We’re not talking about depriving them of life or liberty, we’re talking about their transfer to another university.”

Krakauer and  Dunn similarly shrug off the consequences to a young man of being falsely tarred as a rapist and kicked out of school: it’s not like staying in the college you enrolled in is a right. Like Polis, they pretend that there are minimal adverse life consequences from being branded a rapist. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/8/17

[I have been pondering doing this for some time now. Literally every day there are issues and stories that arise that are either too minor for a full post, or crowded out by other issues. Often I never get to them. Also my various issue scouts (especially Fred) have been burying me with excellent candidates for discussion and analysis, and I never get to most of them, frustrating all of us. So I am going to see if I can begin every day with a set of short notes about these topics, reserving the right to expand some of them into full posts later.]

1. Stacy Lockett, a teacher at Anthony Aguirre Junior High, has been fired after she gave out facetious awards to students such as “Most likely to become a terrorist” and “Most likely to blend in with white people.” Good, I think. These are too sensitive issues to expect middle-schoolers to laugh at, and the ‘awards”  show terrible judgment. Still, I am thinking back to comments made in class by some of my favorite 7th and 8th grade teachers, some targeting me. I thought they were funny, and the teachers knew I would think so. All of them would have been fired today, according to the Lockett Standard (Pointer from Fred)

2. By not disciplining Reza Aslan, the host of its “Believer” program who called President Trump a “piece of shit,” “an embarrassment to humankind” and a “man-baby” CNN has made it clear that it has abandoned any vestiges of professionalism or regard for journalism ethics. Well, perhaps “even more clear” is more accurate. CNN allowed Carol Costello to gleefully mock Bristol Palin for getting emotional over being battered; it has allowed Don Lemon to get smashed on the air two New Year’s Eves in a row, and shrugged off Anderson Cooper speculating about the President taking “a dump on his desk,” to give just three examples. Its excuse for Aslan was especially weird, claiming in a statement that he was a host but not an employee. Aslan apologized, but it was a dishonest apology, claiming that the tweets were impulsive and “not like me,” but in another tweet on May 9, he wrote,

“Oh the joy when this lying conniving scumbag narcissistic sociopath piece of shit fake president finally gets what’s coming to him.”

It’s sad to see what CNN has become since Trump’s election. I am embarrassed for the network. but more than that, I am in sorrow for the public. It is not being served by this kind of amateurish, biased and unprofessional journalism.

3. I finally decided that this law suit was too stupid to write about: a ridiculous woman named Holly O’Reilly has found some lawyers—not just any lawyers, either, but the First Amendment Institute at Columbia University—-willing to file a lawsuit claiming that President Trump cannot block her on his Twitter account because doing so is a First Amendment violation of her rights of free speech. The institute’s executive director, Jameel Jaffer, said in a statement that Mr. Trump did not have a right to exclude his critics from engaging with his posts. Does anyone think this is anything but nonsense? Anyone but the New York Times, that is, which wrote, ” The request raises novel legal issues stemming from Mr. Trump’s use of his Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, to make statements about public policy,” and the Washington Post, which published the woman’s silly  op-ed .

When did “novel” come to mean “absurd”? The President blocking a Twitter user on the social media platform isn’t “government action” any more than not taking her phone calls or not reading her letters. She can still say anything she wants on Twitter. Next she’ll sue because she isn’t allowed to ask question at White House press briefings. Columbia University should be embarrassed, but when the anti-Trump  hate virus melts your brain, embarrassment is often the first casualty. Continue reading

The “Transitioning” Female Wrestler: A Failure Of Ethics And Common Sense

The girls wrestling champion, Matt Beggs.

The girls wrestling champion, Mack Beggs.

Mack Beggs is a competitive wrestler at Euless Trinity High School, and also is a biological female more than a year into the process of “transitioning” to male.  Beggs just won his third consecutive girls’ wrestling tournament victory in the 110-pound weight class. I’ll call him “he” because that is what the student wants to be called, and he, in great part due to the male steroid treatment he has been undergoing,  is now 55-0 on the season. All of his opponents have been high school girls who are not taking steroids, and unlike Mack, do not intend to become, for all intents and purposes, male.

While Beggs says he wants to wrestle in the boy’s competitions,  the University Interscholastic League rules use an athlete’s birth certificate to determine gender, a measure that makes sense in most cases, just not this one. (See: The Ethics Incompleteness Principle) The rules prohibit girls from wrestling in the boys division and vice versa, and rules are rules. If you are a rigid, non-ethically astute bureaucrat, you follow rules even when you know that they will lead to unjust, absurd results, like Mack’s 55-0 record in matches.

The  rules also say that taking performance enhancing drugs like the testosterone that has given Beggs greater muscle mass and strength than his female competitors is forbidden, but  UIL provides an exception for drugs prescribed by a doctor for a valid medical purpose. After a review of Beggs’ medical records, the body granted him permission to compete while  taking male steroids—compete as a girl, that is.  Rules are rules!

One athletic director, after watching Beggs crush a weaker female competitor who left the ring in tears,  asked for his name not to be used as he commented to reporters, and opined that “there is cause for concern because of the testosterone,” and added, “I think there is a benefit.”

Really going out on a limb there, sport, aren’t you?

Here, let me help.

This is an unfair, foolish, completely avoidable fiasco brought about by every party involved not merely failing to follow ethical principles and common sense, but refusing to. Continue reading

The 8th Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2016: The Last Of The Worst

how-lead-gets-injpg-1e9d798a1edee129

Ethics Alarms wraps up the Worst in 2016 Ethics with the usual education and journalism breaches, Ethics Dunce of the Year, and more delights for the sadistic…

Unethical Government Fiasco Of The Year

The Flint, Michigan water crisisA failure of competence, diligence, responsibility and honesty, compounded by bureaucrats, elected officials, the city of Detroit, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and the EPA made people sick and cost billions.

Good job, everybody!

Scam of the Year

Sen.Ted Cruz’s fake “official” mailer before the Iowa Caucus. Cruz’s campaign  sent out mailers labeled in all capital letters, “ELECTION ALERT,” “VOTER VIOLATION,” “PUBLIC RECORD,” and “FURTHER ACTION NEEDED.” On the other side, the mailer said, in red letters at the top, “VOTING VIOLATION.” The text read:

You are receiving this election notice because of low expected voter turnout in your area. Your individual voting history as well as your neighbors’ are public record. Their scores are published below, and many of them will see your score as well. CAUCUS ON MONDAY TO IMPROVE YOUR SCORE and please encourage your neighbors to caucus as well. A follow-up notice may be issued following Monday’s caucuses.

This is why Trump’s nickname for Cruz, “Lyin’ Ted,” was crude but accurate.

Ethics Dunces Of The Year

All the social media users and others who ended Facebook friendships, genuine friendships and relationship over the 2016 election. Haven’t they ever seen “It’s A Wonderful Life”? Morons. Shame on all of them.

Weenies of the Year

The college students who demanded that exams be cancelled, therapists be available, safe spaces be found, puppies be summoned and cry-ins be organized because the awful candidate they supported in the Presidential election lost, as candidates often do.

How embarrassing.

Unethical University Of The Year 

Liberty University.  This is the most competitive of categories, with all the schools that railroaded male students based on questionable sexual assault claims while quailing in fear of the Dept. of Education’s “Dear Colleague Letter,” and all the schools that signaled that the results of a simple election justified PTSD treatment for their shattered charges, as well as making it clear to any students who dared to tilt Republican that they were persona non grata. Nonetheless, Liberty University takes the prize with its unique combination of greed, hypocrisy, and warped values. From the Ethics Alarms post:

Last week, with great fanfare, Liberty hired Ian McCaw as its new athletic director. “My vision for Liberty is to position it as a pre-eminent Christian athletic program in America,” McCaw said during a news conference.

This is his first paying assignment since May, when he left his job as the athletic director at Baylor, also a Christian university. His departure was made essential after a thorough investigation that found that those overseeing Baylor’s  football team as well as the management of  the athletic department—that is, McCaw— had been informed of multiple gang rapes and sexual assault by team members and had ignored it, as any good football-loving Christian would….especially when a star was involved.

Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Liberty University

That's McCaw on the left, Starr on the right, with the Baylor women's basketball team.

That’s McCaw on the left, Starr on the right, with the Baylor women’s basketball team.

Football is a sport, but in American culture its primary impact is as an ethics corrupter. The latest revolting example of this is occurring at Lynchburg, Virginia’s Liberty University, a prominent Christian fundamentalist institution founded by Jerry Falwell, the late TV evangelist and Religious Right icon. The school  is supposedly dedicated to imbuing its students with moral values, but if it comes to choosing between the Ten Commandments and pigskin glory, guess what comes out on top?

Last week, with great fanfare, Liberty hired Ian McCaw as its new athletic director. “My vision for Liberty is to position it as a pre-eminent Christian athletic program in America,” McCaw said during a news conference.

This is his first paying assignment since May, when he left his job as the athletic director at Baylor, also a Christian university. His departure was made essential after a thorough investigation that found that those overseeing Baylor’s  football team as well as the management of  the athletic department—that is, McCaw— had been informed of multiple gang rapes and sexual assault by team members and had ignored it, as any good football-loving Christian would….especially when a star was involved.

Baylor’s summary of its confidential investigation, overseen by the law firm of Pepper Hamilton, found that athletic program administrators and football coaches learned of accusations of gang and date rape over many years and did not report them or take appropriate action. This, the report found, “reinforces the perception that rules applicable to other students are not applicable to football players.”

Ethics Alarms calls this “The King’s Pass,” or “The Star Syndrome.” It is antithetical to moral and ethical principles, and, in theory, religion.

The report concluded that the “the choices made by football staff and athletics leadership, in some instances, posed a risk to campus safety and the integrity of the University.” Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Sarcasm-Tainted Observations On The Milwaukee Riots”

Milwaukee rioting

Chris Marschner, a grandmaster of the Ethics Alarms Comment of the Day feature, issued another deserving one with his thoughts on the Milwaukee riots. It is a highlight of the threads generated by this topic, but there are many other highlights amid the 90+ comments, including an Alamo-like stand against overwhelming odds (and logic) by that prolific, embattled, and adamant EA progressive, deery. The whole discussion is well worth reading. Deery also authored the comment that inspired Chris’s response below.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “Sarcasm-Tainted Observations On The Milwaukee Riots”:

For the life of me I cannot see how any rational human being can justify rioting and the looting businesses because they feel they are owed something for being “oppressed”. What the hell did the gas station or auto parts store do to them? Does that case of Cheezits being carried out of the store address all of your complaints, or is it just a partial down payment on a never ending invoice for the injustice you perceive? Sorry I have no sympathy for anyone who had myriad opportunities to become educated in a manner that would permit them to read, write, perform arithmetic calculations, and just plain think.

No amount of funding can overcome community apathy. Especially, when apathy is the root cause of the need for funding in the first place. The community needs to recognize that if it wants things to be different then it needs to come to grips with the idea that they must take on the lion’s share of the work to enjoy a better life; it cannot be bestowed upon them. It must pool its own resources first before it requests resources from others. It must demonstrate that it is committed to being responsible for the work of changing the situation. Any one who thinks jobs and opportunities will simply emerge with more government spending in areas that suggest crime is rampant needs his/her head examined. No amount of tax abatement will overcome the cost of rebuilding a business that has been burned to the ground. It should be noted that the police did not spray paint tags all over other people’s buildings. It’s not urban art, it’s vandalism. The police did not create the need for security grates over the glass windows of shops. The police did not throw litter all over the street and dump furniture and tires wherever they pleased. More importantly, within the BCPD, the officers charged with various felonies while on the force were predominantly non-white so it not always a racial issue.

I grew up in Baltimore City. I lived there from 1956-1989. I went to Balto. City public schools (BCPS). I went to Woodbourne Jr. High and graduated from Northern High in 1974. Both schools were integrated and each had its share of bad actors be they white or black. In those days black parents wanted to keep their kids away from the “element”. I don’t think that is the case today. Today we celebrate the gangsta persona.

I was neither a star pupil nor a bad student. What I did learn from my father was that college was not something I could ask for help with and no school counselor ever suggested that I consider college. I saw the battles my older brother went through to get him to fill out the financial information on the financial aid applications. My father hated to disclose his income. Perhaps it was because he felt inferior to what others made or maybe he just did not like the idea of getting government assistance. I don’t know. I just learned not to ask about college. To this day I don’t remember either parent talking to me about college except for when I was in 8th grade and I could not pass the foreign language class which was required for college prep.

I did not go to college immediately after high school. Ironically, both my parents were Baltimore City Public School teachers for much of their lives. My mother who taught English was known as that white honky bitch at Northern Parkway Junior High. That’s what the parents called her when she called them to discuss a student’s lack of progress. She got called that a lot. I saw the tears of frustration.

Continue reading

Ethics Dunces : Michigan State University Student Feminists

MSU womens_study_lounge

Higher education progressives, students, professors and administrators alike, are seriously confused about ethics, and some basic principles like fairness, respect, equity, and competence, not to mention common sense. How did they come to such a state?

For various reasons, none of them reasonable, Michigan State University had maintained that gender segregation was appropriate in the student Union, and  a study lounge there was designated for women only. Perhaps we can forgive the school’s initial judgment in this case, since the Union’s Women’s Lounge, located on the main floor of the MSU Union, debuted in 1925, just five years after women gained the right to vote.Men vastly outnumbered women then, and were looked upon as oddities, or perhaps temptation.

It is 2016, however, and women are demanding equality where it may already exist, and declaring gender discrimination where it may not, so the continued existence of the male excluding lounge was more than a bit anachronistic. After all, Harvard College just declared war on any male student who dared to belong to off-campus all-male clubs, since even freedom of association away from school is deeply offensive to the progressive values of Ivy League educators.

Then a University of Michigan-Flint professor named Mark Perry, filed a complaint to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights towards MSU alleging that the lounge violated federal anti-discrimination law, which it obviously does. Continue reading

Ethically, Caster Semenya Points Us Directly To Gender-Free Sports Competition, And There Is No Ethical Way To Avoid It

Caster

Ethics Alarms first mentioned female runner Caster Semenya in this essay , when the international sports community was debating the South African track champion’s fitness for competition. Caster, depending on who you believe, is either a woman, intersex, a woman with freakishly high levels of testosterone in her body, or a man who identifies as a woman. What is undeniable is that she is faster than most women, and maybe all of them, and her unique physical make-up, whatever you want to call it, gives her an advantage. Since the last Olympics, Caster has been forced to take drugs that inhibited her body’s production of testosterone.Then, in July 2015 , the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned the 2011 IAAF regulations that restricted testosterone levels in female athletes. They also suspended hyperandrogenism regulations for two years. Now Semenya will be able to compete as she is naturally, and because she will, she is widely expected to smoke the competition.

Is it fair to let her run? Is it fair not to let her run? After this year of controversy and confusion over gender, with boys and men “identifying as women” and transgender discrimination laws roiling the culture wars, this is a perfect time for an intersex champion. Then, presumably, all hell will break loose. A sports scientist tells The Guardian,

“I’m actually dreading the Olympics. People only want to hear a good story so when Semenya wins gold the South African media will go crazy. If she breaks the world record, which I think she will, it’ll be even crazier. You can lie and say: ‘Happy days. Let’s celebrate our golden girl’ – which the politicians and media want. Or you can be honest and principled and say: ‘Actually, there are many things we need to address.’ That’s very unpopular”

Society and sports have reached the point  the ethical solution is obvious and unavoidable, and, unfortunately, brutal. If society is accepting the fact that a binary gender distribution is a myth, and there may be seven, ten, or dozens of gender variations along a spectrum, then integrity and consistency—and fairness—demands that gender distinctions in sport be eliminated as arbitrary. Continue reading

Observations On The ‘Ole Miss’ Sigma Chi Derby Days Controversy

Derby DaysNews Item:

The University of Mississippi’s Title IX office has launched an investigation after allegations surfaced on social media that men of the Sigma Chi fraternity asked sorority members questions tainted with sexual innuendo on a loud speaker system in front of hundreds of students at the closing festivities of Derby Days, the fraternity’s annual philanthropic initiative.

Those “allegations” came in the form of an emotional Facebook post by student Abby Bruce, who began,

“Tonight, my eyes watered up as I watched women be humiliated in the name of “philanthropy.” After a week long process of all the sororities on campus competing to raise money for Sigma Chi’s philanthropy, the guys proceeded to ask the contestants for their Derby Days queen over the mic at the dance competition where hundreds of women were gathered “which sigma chi they would go down on,” “what type of sausage would they prefer: linked or sigma chi,” and other questions of the like.”

Observations:

1. I’m sure Ole Miss administrators are shocked, shocked (I know this “Casablanca” reference is an over-used cliché, but it perfectly fits this episode) that fraternity members would use sexual innuendo at an event like this. In truth, this is undoubtedly been going on for decades, but the combination of the sexual assault posse culture that the Education Department’s “Dear Colleague” letter inflicted on campuses combined with social media shaming prompted the college to act as if it had no idea such vulgarity was going on.

The University of Mississippi has allowed and by its passivity endorsed such piggish conduct in its fraternities, and it is now grandstanding.

2. A Title IX investigation, in this case to see if frat boys making sexual innuendos about sorority girls during an extra-curricular event, is an abuse of the law and free speech intimidation, and is unwarranted, except, I suppose, to make Old Miss  immune from government harassment. The test in Title IX is whether conduct with sexual content and intent rises to the level of non-consensual and unwelcome sexual harassment in which students are “deprived of equal and free access to an education.”  Being subjected to rude comments on Derby Day when in all likelihood the women participating knew what was coming isn’t going to deprive anyone of anything. Continue reading