We need a short hand description for the queer bash e-mail controversy. Suggestions are hereby solicited.

For lovers of campus politics, the Record provides lots of marvelous details. Continuing with the article, we read:

President Schapiro and Dean Roseman both assured Winstanley at that time that the College would take appropriate action.

“I’m glad that the College is taking action, and I trust that it will act appropriately,” Winstanley said.

I suspect that Schapiro/Roseman may have a different interpretation of “appropriate action” than Winstanley. Reading through the College’s Policies, Procedures and Regulations in the Student Handbook, it is not clear what specific rules Lucien and Pritchard have violated. The best (from the point of view of Winstanley) section that I can find is:

Accepting membership in this community entails an obligation to behave with courtesy to others whose beliefs and behavior differ from one’s own; all members and guests of this community must be free of disturbance or harassment, including racial and sexual harassment.

Now, if Pritchard and Lucien had gone out of their way to harass Winstanley, if they had sought him out and sent him repeated offensive e-mails, if they continued this behavior even after being asked to stop by Winstanley or others, they would clearly be in trouble according to any reasonable definition of “courtesy” and “harassment”. Yet, they did none of those things. Recall the actual content of the e-mails in question. Lucien’s two e-mails are certainly rude (but note that Winstanley hardly gets points for politeness), but it is hard to describe them as harassing. In fact, I would disagree with the Record’s characterization of them as “abusive.”

Pritchard, mostly because he uses the term “faggots,” is in a very different category. But, even though his words are beyond the pale for polite society at Williams, it is not clear that a single e-mail can meet the standard of harassment. Although the College can come down hard on a student for the style of his speech, it must be very careful in punishing the content of that speech.

So, if Winstanley thinks of “appropriate action” as involving something out of:

disciplinary warning (a letter from the dean, a personal interview, or both); disciplinary probation for a specified period (sometimes with specified conditions, e.g., loss of eligibility to represent the College, restrictions of extra-curricular activities); suspension for a specified time; or permanent expulsion.

he may be disappointed, unless he will be satisfied with the personal interview. After all, the College might have a tough time punishing Pritchard’s speech, hateful though it may be, if it would be perfectly legal of him to say exactly the same thing on the corner of Spring Street.

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