There is so much interesting stuff in the Record this week that it is hard to know where to begin. As previewed in Mike Needham’s ’04 Blog last week, there is an article, QSU Reacts to Abusive E-mails, which overviews the incident. Here is some of it along with my commentary.

A series of e-mails sent to Queer Student Union (QSU) social coordinator Nate Winstanley ’04 rocked the queer community and incited heated discussions on campus last week.

Three e-mails were sent between Oct. 10 and 14 by two first-years, John Pritchard ’07 and Brandon Lucien ’07, in response to the all-campus e-mails Winstanley sent out to publicize the annual Queer Bash party on Oct. 11.

All-campus e-mails are probably a source for some debate on campus, although I can’t find any commentary about it on-line. My understanding is that any representative from a student group can send out all campus e-mails as often as they like. I wonder how many get sent out. I wonder if any/some/many/most people would prefer to not get them. The administration certainly needs the ability to send out all-campus e-mails, but is it wise for every student to have that ability?

Of course, at larger schools like Harvard, students are not entrusted with this sort of power. The ability to send all-campus e-mails is one of the many ways that Williams does a better job than most places of treating its students like adults. It would be a shame to see that end.

The first two e-mails, sent by Lucien, objected to receiving e-mails about queer events.

So far, so good. There is, presumably, nothing wrong with not wanting to receive e-mails on a particular topic. Some Williams students would certainly prefer to not receive e-mails about (hypothetical!) campus rallies on divestment from Israel or about Marine Corps recruitment on campus or about meetings for the Williams chapter of NARAL. In the end, of course, the College might decide that the benefits to free-flowing communication outweigh the costs of unwanted e-mails, but not-wanting e-mails on specific topics seems reasonable.

Of course, it would also be reasonable of Winstanley to conclude that Lucien’s request demonstrated a certain less-than-ethusiastic embrace of the QSU and its events. Assuming that Lucien was polite in his request, there is nothing wrong with him asking to not receive such e-mails in the future. I am also curious about how many e-mails were sent about the event. It would be helpful to see the text of Lucien’s e-mail, if only to have a better sense of the facts of the case.

The third e-mail, written by Pritchard, provoked Winstanley to forward all three e-mails, with the names of the writers still included, to the Dean’s Office, President Schapiro, the Committee on Diversity and Community and the Queer Student Union (QSU), College Council (CC) and Junior Advisor (JA) listservers by Tuesday afternoon.

I think that there may be some non-trivial legal issues here in terms of what I can do with an e-mail that you send me, but, since I am not a lawyer, I won’t address them.

The text of that message, which has since been cited in an all-campus e-mail sent out by CC included the following excerpt: “Why don’t u [sic] faggots keep to ur [sic] god damn selves. You people disgust me…i [sic] almost threw up when i [sic] saw all that crap you people wrote on the sidewalks last week.”

This is clearly beyond the pale. Pritchard should be ashamed of himself. His parents should be mortified that any son of theirs would behave in such a fashion. Pritchard’s JAs should have a strong “talking to” with him about the standards of behavior that are expected in the Williams community. Someone in the Dean’s office, perhaps Dean Roseman, perhaps someone she chooses (Is Renzi Lamb available?), should sit down with Pritchard and put a little bit of the fear of God into him by outlining all the very bad things that can happen to him (both at Williams and beyond) if he doesn’t behave better.

There is much more interesting material in the article, but the above will have to do for now.

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