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Uncomfortable Learning

Professor Sam Crane writes :

I talked yesterday, and had a pleasant dinner with, a group of alumni from my college. They were students of a famed teacher, Robert L. Gaudino. He was an immensely dedicated teacher, committed to the idea of “uncomfortable learning,” challenging fundamental assumptions and, even, identities. I was impressed by the deep effect this teacher had on his students, evident still forty years later.

Gaudino was one of the most important professors at Williams in the last 50 years. (I just created his Wikipedia page. Who will add to it?) We all agree on the importance of “uncomfortable learning,” of being confronted by strange and disquieting views, of learning that not everyone thinks as we think and acts as we act. Don’t we?

Alas, we don’t. Some are too quick to sacrifice a diversity of viewpoints in the name of “promoting acceptance.”

In reaction to the racial slur that was directed at a student in May 2005, President Schapiro asserted that “hateful behavior lies well outside the boundaries of this community’s standards.” Last Friday, a misguided student ignored that message and crossed those boundaries. An incendiary poster campaign promoted a pro-Hitler message and mocked the remembrance of genocide. Cognizant of recent events at Virginia Tech, some Williams students were terrified by the message and afraid to participate in ordinary activities.

The behavior that promoted this kind of fear among community members was unacceptable. Williams must be a safe and accepting community. All students have the right to walk around campus and participate in activities without feeling threatened. No student has the right to make a member of the Williams community uncomfortable. As your elected officers, we condemn the posters and ensure the community that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.

No, no, no. A thousand times No. Not only does Julia have the right to make the students around her “uncomfortable,” she has an obligation to do so. We all do, particularly members of the Williams faculty and those alumni with a devoted interest in our beloved alma mater. If you are “comfortable” at Williams all year long, then the College is doing something wrong. A comfortable liberal arts education is an oxymoron.

Now, of course, we don’t want students to feel “terrified” (as some no doubt were by Julia’s posters); we need to ensure that everyone can participate in the Williams conversation; we need ground rules for maximizing effectiveness and inclusion. Yet Julia’s decision to put up posters featuring Hitler as a satire of, and comment on, the WCJA’s Holocaust Remembrance Day campaign is well within the framework of a Williams education, of “uncomfortable learning.” Say what you will about Julia, but this Record article makes clear that she is intelligent, thoughtful and well-spoken. There is no doubt that she belongs at Williams, that she is a part of the community, that her speech has educated others. She might want to cultivate some more empathy for those around her, especially those students who “felt threatened” by the posters. (Much the same was said, correctly, of me 20 years ago. Surely, loyal EphBlog readers know that I was the Julia of my day at Williams.) But empathy will come with time, as it comes to all of us.

Surely at least some members of the faculty would agree with this sentiment, would recognize that posters like Julia’s, ideas which we find offensive, are an integral part of our education. Or are there no Robert Gaudino’s left at Williams? Consider this description of an event at Williams 25 years ago, before Julia had even been born.

Steve Lewis [’60, former Economics professor] began by discussing three events that had occurred at Williams which were “created” by Gaudino. In essence, Gaudino responded to certain situations and transformed them into educational “events.” Steve introduced the events by referencing one of Gaudino’s questions: “Isn’t education really one big upset stomach?”

Indeed it is. Read the whole thing. If Bob Gaudino were at Williams today, he would be turning this into an “event,” defending in the strongest possible terms Julia’s active participation in the intellectual life of the College, asking all of us to consider (and appreciate) the stomach ache that these posters have created.

Where have you gone, Professor Gaudino?

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#1 Comment By frank uible On April 27, 2007 @ 12:17 pm

What is wrong with this generation of Williams students? Why be terrified? You’re 20 years old; you’re healthy and more intelligent than nearly everyone; you have had a great deal of success in life (and no or almost no serious set backs); you’re prospects are limitless; you’re going to live forever! You should be striding the campus courageously with your head up looking life in the eye – speaking clearly and forthrightly for equity. You are as good as any man and to boot are invulnerable. You are the image of John Wayne incarnate. No one would have the gall to shoot you or blow you up – and perchance if they should try, you are bullet proof! For God’s sake, get hold of yourself.

#2 Comment By rory On April 27, 2007 @ 12:19 pm

I love the editorial addressing the topic in the Record. I think it deserves posting (and no, david, i’m not going to become an author) and consideration. In addition, I agree that comfort is not the right term, but that was a one sentece slip-up. the rest of the cc letter was focused on feelings of intimidation, threat, and fright. those are feelings that college should actively try to avoid in its students.

I still await Julia’s public statement I’ve been told to expect. I also await some top-notch investigative reporting into the “friend” (no naming?) considering his superiority complex, continued referencing of Nazi imagery, and his insinuation that ephblog is “wealthy donors” (which, considering the fact that he put up Hitler posters, is scarily bordering on a traditional anti-semitic trope) on his anonymous website.

#3 Comment By Richard Dunn On April 27, 2007 @ 12:27 pm

I disagree David. This wasn’t uncomfortable learning. There was no unpopular or controversial or radical thesis. Levitt’s hypothesis that abortion leads to lower crime rates fits this mode and is worthy of debate and discussion. Even if his analysis is wrong, in discussing it we can learn. It wasn’t a social psychology experiment. From Milgram we learned how far people will discard their ethics when someone else is giving the order. I think we already knew people don’t like posters of Hitler on their door. This wasn’t meant to educate. This was an act to provoke for the sake of provocation.

#4 Comment By Anonymous On April 27, 2007 @ 12:28 pm

It’s a neat idea, but not one for the current generation. For God’s sake, they were raised on sports competitions where everyone wins and no one loses, so aren’t well equiped to handle competition.

#5 Comment By hwc On April 27, 2007 @ 12:47 pm

Say what you will about Julia, but this Record article makes clear that she is intelligent, thoughtful and well-spoken.

The article doesn’t make that clear at all. In fact, it adds nothing new, instead relying on Bong Hits 4 Hitler’s manifesto to the Deans from WSO. Clearly, Julia did not agree to discuss her actions with the Record. In fact, she has not communicated with the campus as Morty Schapiro said she would.

Not to knock the Record, but that article is also several days out of date. For example, it does not include the continued harangue and physical threats of Julia’s Idiot Boyfriend ™.

#6 Comment By hwc On April 27, 2007 @ 1:15 pm

David:

Your “Uncomfortably Learning” premise falls apart at the point where the technique crosses the line into cruelty or hatred. Of course, it is desireable for professors to encourage their students to think outside the box. However, it would not have been appropriate for Gaudino to come to class dressed as Hitler and deliver an anti-semitic rant directed at his Jewish students, to make some pedalogical point.

At the risk of drawing ephmom’s ire, let me give you an example of parody that does not cross the line. As at many colleges, gay students at Swarthmore “celebrate” Coming Out Week by covering the campus sidewalks with chalkings, which range from humorous to hideously obscene. The chalkings provoke a negative response to the method of communication. So, the Computer Society members parody the chalkings a day later by covering the campus with computer geek chalkings in the style of the gay chalkings, but focused on all things geekdom: Linux jokes, double-entendres juxtaposing sex and computers, and so forth.

The computer geek chalkings use parody as an unmistakable statement about the gay chalkings a day earlier. Nobody misses the point. However, the parady does not cross the line into a bigoted attack. They are very different in nature than if the Computer Society covered the campus with anti-gay chalkings, carefully using iconography designed to be the most viscerally hateful of gay students.

That is the flaw in Bong Hits 4 Hitler postering. It was not a good-faith parody of postering for a cause. By choosing the icon of anti-Jewish bigotry, Julia’s parody became hateful and, notwithstanding her protestations, designed from the start to cause pain in exactly the same way that burning a cross in the front yard of the black student union would.

I do not see any way to applaud this action as a valid exercise in “uncomfortable learning”.

#7 Comment By ephmom On April 27, 2007 @ 1:25 pm

“Not only does Julia ’09 have the right to make the students around her “uncomfortable,” she has an obligation to do so. We all do”

But both “Rob” and Julia — by association (or rather, by not disassociating herself from his screed) — don’t like being made to feel uncomfortable: “tasteless and sickening ‘Holocaust Remembrance’ posters were taped to dorm doors with the intent to invade personal space and make students uncomfortable.” (4/23/07)

And anyway, Julia’s gotten the discourse she so ardently sought to “inspire.” I wonder if her “inner frustration (has) only worsened” (4/24/07)?

#8 Comment By David Kane On April 27, 2007 @ 1:45 pm

I haven’t participated much in these threads, but some of the above needs correcting. Richard writes:

I disagree David. This wasn’t uncomfortable learning. There was no unpopular or controversial or radical thesis.

Untrue. The Record reports:

Julia had the idea to make mock remembrance fliers after encountering the Holocaust Remembrance Day posters that members of the Williams College Jewish Association (WCJA) posted on students’ doors April 15. Julia said she regarded the sign as an invasion of her personal space. “I felt afraid to take it off,” she said. “Some friends and I were talking about it, wondering if we were allowed to recycle this dead Jewish person someone put on our door.”

In response, Julia decided to create mock remembrance fliers, an act she thought would be amusing and would serve to comment on the invasiveness of the WCJA posters. “I thought it’d be funny to post some other kind of remembrance posters,” Julia said. “My first thought was the Alamo – remember the Alamo – because I’m from Texas. But 420 came first, before any kind of Alamo remembrance day.”

Her “thesis” was that the HRD posters were invasive. To those who might disagree (most, but not all, students) she illustrated by coming up with a poster which they were highly likely to be offended by. That might not be clever, much less empathetic, but Julia has a non-unreasonable point about the HRD posters, a view shared by (some) other students. Her point is probably unpopular and controversial in the Williams community. Many of the critics of the HRD posters were fiercely criticized in turn.

HWC writes:

Your “Uncomfortably Learning” premise falls apart at the point where the technique crosses the line into cruelty or hatred.

Untrue. It is obvious (to me and her many friends) that Julia does not “hate” anyone. One persons “cruelty” is another’s pointed jibe.

The computer geek chalkings use parody as an unmistakable statement about the gay chalkings a day earlier. Nobody misses the point. However, the parady does not cross the line into a bigoted attack.

Says who? You are telling me that not a single student at Swarthmore views them as “bigoted.” I’ll take the other side of that bet. Now, I believe you that most students think it is fine, treat it as fun, believe that there is no ill-will. But, anytime you make fun of a group or an activity of a group, you can be sure that I least one member of that group will view it as an attack.

Julia’s parody became hateful and, notwithstanding her protestations, designed from the start to cause pain in exactly the same way that burning a cross in the front yard of the black student union would.

Says who? You can look into Julia’s soul and know her intent? How? Not everyone knows how strongly some/many/most students (Jewish or otherwise) will react to such a symbol. Some/many students found the HRD posters more invasive/obnoxious. Are they guilty of thought crimes too?

I do not see any way to applaud this action as a valid exercise in “uncomfortable learning”.

Well, you need to read more about Robert Gaudino and learn what “uncomfortable learning” means. Note the first example that Steve Lewis mentions: Gaudino giving a public lecture and telling the women and freshmen present to leave because they were not “mature” enough to listen to what he had to say. An “uproar” ensues. You think that that is OK but Julia putting up posters is not?

#9 Comment By Andrew On April 27, 2007 @ 2:05 pm

David,

You’re discounting Morty’s account of people being terrified.

Look, people cried. I was there. You’re dead wrong here. You simply cannot imagine what it is like for some Jews (admittedly not me, but some) to come home and see a picture of Hitler on their doors. Not the whole poster, just Hitler. Because Hitler stands out to some of us.

If, in viewing the poster as dispassionately as we can, after the fact, we at some point realize that it was in fact supposed to be a satire…that does not change the fact the presence of Hitler on students’ doors did scare and threaten many students, and could EASILY have been predicted to do so if the satirist had done anything remotely like due diligence on this.

It is ok that you cannot understand that. You have viewed the material in the light of what it is in itself, instead of having first seen it posted on your front door. And you’re not Jewish. Taken together, those facts make it damn hard for you to understand what went on here.

But the fear was real, and a lot of people were deeply disturbed not by the ideas presented in the poster, but by the simple fact of Adolf Hitler’s presence on their doors when they went home.

Period, David.

#10 Comment By Loweeel On April 27, 2007 @ 2:08 pm

David,

I think part of the difference is that Gaudino is taking responsibility for his statement; he “owned it” from the moment he said it, and as his first response, I doubt that he tried to explain it away by suggesting that people who were offended were sheep who just weren’t sophisticated enough to get the alleged parody of his statement.

While the WCJA inadvertently forgot to sign their posters, it was pretty obvious from a bare minimum of searching or inquiry what the posters were for and who put them up between the date and the subject matter. The purpose of the posters was pretty clear — remember the Holocaust.

In contrast, Julia (aka “Bong Hits 4 Hitler”) purposely didn’t sign her posters and only owned up to it when caught. People had no idea what to make of her posters, and a week later, we STILL don’t have much more of an idea, as Bong Hits 4 Hitler seems to go back and forth based on whichever “defense” is stronger against a particular line of criticism. The overwhelming majority of students seeing this didn’t have (and still don’t) any idea what to make of it. Is it celebrating Hitler’s birthday? Is it celebrating cannabis on 4/20? Is it both? Is it serious? Is it parody?

We don’t know, and a week later, Julia hasn’t done a thing to clarify except attack her critics with arguments so weak that Dennis Kucinich would laugh at them.

#11 Comment By ephmom On April 27, 2007 @ 2:12 pm

“Not everyone knows how strongly some/many/most students (Jewish or otherwise) will react to such a symbol.”

A clip from “The Office” is bookmarked on WSO: “There are certain topics that are off-limits to comedians: JFK, AIDS, the Holocaust …”

Have you heard any Holocaust jokes in civil company?

#12 Comment By hwc On April 27, 2007 @ 2:15 pm

David:

You are grotesquely twisting and devaluing Prof. Gaudino’s concept of “uncomfortable learning” by comparing his work to the Bong Hits 4 Hitler efforts.

Allow me to quote from his biography on the Gaudino Fund website so that others can understand Prof. Gaudino’s concept:

More than anything, however, the participants wound up reflecting on the “unsettling experience”, a cornerstone of Gaudino’s educational theory of “uncomfortable learning” that suggested there could be no education without intellectual and emotional change, and that the College should “actively promote a range of experiences that have the creative potential to unsettle and disturb.”

Gaudino persisted in his attempts to devise educationally sound, off-campus programs for Williams students, many of whom, he believed, were lacking in enough “unsettling” or “foreign” experiences necessary for any meaningful learning to occur. Toward this end, he implemented the Williams-at-Home program in 1971-72.

Like Williams-in-India, the 18 participants in Williams-at-Home spent the fall semester preparing for their off-campus experience in an intensive course titled “Public Authority in America.” In the winter and spring, the students lived and worked with families in various locations in the deep South, in Appalachia , Iowa and Detroit. In between each stay, the students would get together for a week at a time to try to synthesize their experiences in a formal paper, and to share their insights and frustrations.

Gaudino emphasized that the purpose of these programs was “not just to have experience. It is to reflect upon it, to let it enhance or inhibit our sense of self. It is both to put us inside experience and to move us beyond it.”

In other words, the exact purpose of Gaudino’s pedagogy was to promote, for example, students’ ability to emphathize with the visceral reaction of Jewish students to the Holocaust — something that would have been quite relevant since Williams still had a “Jew quotas” during half of Guadino’s tenure.

You have turned Gaudino’s legacy completely on its head.

#13 Comment By Guy Creese ’75 On April 27, 2007 @ 2:25 pm

“Uncomfortable learning” as Professor Gaudino used the term is different from scaring people. He structured his courses as immersing well-to-do students in an unfamiliar environment (traveling to slums in New York City, visiting manufacturing facilities in Kentucky) paired with affiliated readings and courses. Although I never took any of his courses, his pairing of visceral and intellectual learning had a big impact on my classmates that took his courses.

#14 Comment By David Kane On April 27, 2007 @ 2:30 pm

1) “You’re discounting Morty’s account of people being terrified.” No, I am not. I believe that people were honestly terrified. (I like to think that the period of being terrified (as opposed to annoyed, disgusted and furious) was brief.) But that is an unavoidable outcome in a liberal arts environment. Are you saying that Julia can not, say, where a t-short with Hitler’s picture on it around campus? I can understand that people might be terrified by that, but that is the cost of being at a place where (some) people are not overly concerned with your state of mind.

And, if you insist that posters or t-shirts of Hitler are off-limits, then how about posters or t-shirts of Stalin or Mao or Che Guevara? My point here is not to argue that these folks were better or worse than Hitler, or to claim that the reaction of students to Hitler posters/shirts is unreasonable. (But note that there are (some) students who would find an image of Stalin more offensive than (some) students find an image of Hitler.)

My point is that, once you start restricting speech, there is no obvious place to stop. America (and Williams) have decided that the only solution to that dilemma is to allow all speech, including Hitler posters, despite the pain and fear they cause. I encourage you to fight that speech with more speech, but our you seriously proposing that Williams College, as a matter of policy, ban Hitler posters?

2) “While the WCJA inadvertently forgot to sign their posters” Do you have evidence that this is true, that the failure to sign was inadvertent? I am not denying it but I haven’t seen that claim made. Also, I have actively sought out the name of at least one student actively involved in this, so far unsuccessfully. As far as I know, all the students (staff?) involved in the HRD posters are anonymous to this day/

3) Loweel continues:

The overwhelming majority of students seeing this didn’t have (and still don’t) any idea what to make of it. Is it celebrating Hitler’s birthday? Is it celebrating cannabis on 4/20? Is it both? Is it serious? Is it parody?

You can’t be serious. Did you read the Record article? Julia makes her intentions plan as day. She created a parody/satire of the HRD posters in order to protest/highlight what she (and other students) viewed as an obnoxious invasion of their space. You can disagree with this point (and her method of making it) but it is unreasonable to pretend that informed students don’t know what is going on.

Julia’s legal reasoning may be weak, but her basic point is clear enough.

#15 Comment By hwc On April 27, 2007 @ 2:33 pm

we at some point realize that it was in fact supposed to be a satire

I don’t believe that has been established as “fact”. I believe that it is still a valid working hypothesis that the Bong Hits 4 Hitler effort by Julia Cordrary was, indeed an expression of bigotry against Jewish students on campus, something that she may not even be able to admit to herself.

There are certain uses of iconography that cannot be interpreted any other way. Let me give two precisely analogous examples.

Suppose that as part of a Martin Luther King Day celebration, black leaders organize a series of speeches on the Mall in Washington. The Ku Klux Klan sets up a stage the following day for a hooded celebration of lynchings and cross-burnings. When asked, they claim that they were only making a statement about the use of public property for remembrance celebrations. Is there any way to not interpret that act as having bigoted motivations?

Or, as part of a cultural exhibit, a Jewish group sets up a Holocaust survivors museum. A Neo-Nazi group sets up a Hitler museum across the street, filled with images of the Third Reich and Hitler. They claim that they are simply making a statement about museums. On its face, that rationalization is absurd. There would be no way to interpret that response as not having an element of anti-semitism, not matter how strenously the neo-Nazi’s claim innocence.

#16 Comment By Richard Dunn On April 27, 2007 @ 2:44 pm

David Kane. How is being upset by a poster on your door and responding with Hitler posters a thesis? What she had was an opinion, and opinions are like…well, you know the rest. And having an opinion does not absolve one from community standards.
Everyone here knows by now that I think the original postering was an intrusion. That does not mean I would respond by putting Hitler posters up.
She wasn’t trying to educate the rest of campus, she essentially said “Go Fuck Yourself!” and actually, just saying that instead of invoking Hitler would have been more appropriate.

#17 Comment By hwc On April 27, 2007 @ 2:49 pm

David:

You are trying to wrestle a strawman to the ground. There has been no sanction of Bong Hits 4 Hitler Julia for her speech.

The President of the College invited the campus to participate in the dialogue Ms. Julia claimed to desire. She may be getting a a little more “dialogue” than she bargained for. If so, that is a failure on her part to predict the reaction to the use of Hitler iconography in response to a Holocaust Remembrance.

Seems to me that the process is playing out exactly how you would like. She provoked. We discuss.

As for wearing Hitler t-shirts or swastika armbands: the appropriateness of that could only be determined based on context. In most contexts, that would be viewed as inappropriately provocative.

#18 Comment By David Kane On April 27, 2007 @ 2:49 pm

HWC:

1) Although other schools did have “Jew quotas” during the 1950’s, there is no evidence that I am aware of that Williams did. If you have any, please cite it.

2) It is nice for some to believe that Gaudino was so narrow minded that all he would care about is turning students toward a specific moral vision, that he only sought to “unsettle and disturb” those who needed it. But, that is not the way that I read the historical record. We can all agree that one reasonable “purpose of Gaudino’s pedagogy” might be “to promote, for example, students’ ability to emphathize with the visceral reaction of Jewish students to the Holocaust.” That is fine.

But I think that Gaudino would argue that it is just as reasonable to promote students’ ability to empathize with the lack of a visceral reaction of some students to the Holocaust.

Many students at Williams demonstrate a lack of a visceral reaction to, say, Mao’s Great Leap Forward. They don’t know much of about the millions dead. It isn’t that they want lots of innocent Chinese to die, it just doesn’t connect much to their lives. For various reasons, this is less true of Hitler and the Holocaust. My point, again, is not to argue which one is worse or why we should or should not remember one or the other or both.

My point is that a teacher like Gaudino would have used this occasion to point out that not everyone reacts to Hitler in the same way. It is not that Julia or people like her are pro-Hitler. Hitler just isn’t that relevant. They react to a picture of Hitler the way you react to a picture of Mao. Gaudino would have used this event to (try to!) get you to emphasize with Julia. Doesn’t seem like he would have been successful in that attempt.

#19 Comment By Richard Dunn On April 27, 2007 @ 2:53 pm

If your point is that Gaudino would have found something of value from this situation, you have provided little value added and have been terribly unclear in doing so.
Rather, you seem to defend the stupidity offered by a young girl and her boyfriend that needlessly upset people. NEEDLESSLY.

#20 Comment By Loweeel On April 27, 2007 @ 3:00 pm

David, those are Bong Hits 4 Hitler’s post hoc justifications for her actions (and we obviously know better than mindlessly drink her ex post Kool-Aid™, right?). Obviously, we can’t read her mind (and I’ve said multiple times that she should not be punished), but that’s what differentiates her “protest” from HWC’s examples and the Holocaust remembrance fliers — when they saw them, people didn’t understand them, and explanations were not forthcoming. Julia did not make her intentions OR her identity clear, nor was it clear from the subject matter (in contrast to the Holocaust remembrance posters).

Moreover, her boyfriend’s music choices, images, distaste for “juden”, coupled with her ongoing refusal to disavow or even criticize any of these, at the very least, offer a convincing alternative hypothesis. What does Occam’s Razor say about his involvement with the “project”, David? It does NOT suggest that it was a parody or a satire.

[n.b. — a parody is a piece that criticizes what it borrows from; a satire is a piece that criticizes other works. So once again, we have Julia, Ms. Bong Hits 4 Hitler, having no idea what she’s talking about. While the Bong Hits 4 Hitler posters ape the style and method of the Holocaust Remembrance Posters (by borrowing their format and method), it’s incorrect to call them a parody because they don’t borrow the content of the Holocaust posters, even though they deal with the same subject matter and are stylistically similar. “Satire” is the more correct term to describe this self-indulgent stillbirth of intellectual masturbation. An example of an actual parody of the Holocaust posters would be using the same picture of emaciated corpses with the tagline “Eating disorders kill: Anorexia Awareness Day”.]

#21 Comment By hwc On April 27, 2007 @ 3:07 pm

Although other schools did have “Jew quotas” during the 1950’s, there is no evidence that I am aware of that Williams did. If you have any, please cite it.

One of your occasional alumni blog readers was personally involved in the lifting the “Jew quota” at Williams in the mid 1960s and was informed of the numeric details when explanations were subsequently given to him for the change in his status from “waitlist” to “accepted” and the machinations behind the change. It’s up to him to tell the story, should he choose to do so.

I don’t know why anyone would find that shocking. We know, for example, that many colleges had Jew quotas. We know that virtually all colleges had “Negro quotas” (i.e. zero). We know that Williams had an equally low quota for women freshmen until the fall of 1971.

#22 Comment By Loweeel On April 27, 2007 @ 3:12 pm

David, you should also contact former prof. Bradford Verter, as we did research on the Jew quotas for History of American Judaism in Fall ’01. Last I heard, he was at Bennington.

#23 Comment By hwc On April 27, 2007 @ 3:18 pm

My point is that a teacher like Gaudino would have used this occasion to point out that not everyone reacts to Hitler in the same way. It is not that Julia or people like her are pro-Hitler. Hitler just isn’t that relevant. They react to a picture of Hitler the way you react to a picture of Mao. Gaudino would have used this event to (try to!) get you to emphasize with Julia. Doesn’t seem like he would have been successful in that attempt.

The point is not my reaction to a photo of Mao or Hitler. The point is my ability to predict the negative reaction of those in my community. In my opinion, there is strong probability that Bong Hits 4 Hitler Julia and her Idiot Boyfriend ™ predicted the response in the Williams community with a great deal of precision and that prediction is precisely why they did it.

#24 Comment By David Kane On April 27, 2007 @ 3:19 pm

You are trying to wrestle a strawman to the ground. There has been no sanction of Bong Hits 4 Hitler Julia for her speech.

You mean that you (and all the other readers of EphBlog) are in agreement with me that the College should not punish (no “warning letter” much less expulsion) Julia in any way? If true, then you are correct that I am wrestling with a strawman.

Does anyone here think that Julia should be punished by the College?

As long as we can agree that she should not be punished, then I am ready to agree to disagree about the other points in dispute above.

#25 Comment By Loweeel On April 27, 2007 @ 3:21 pm

HWC, as David’s mom could probably tell you, to do ™ on a wintel box, hold down the ALT key and type “0153” on the numberpad, then release ALT.

(ñ is the same, but “676” and ü is “0252”. Those are the only 3 that I’ve used enough to memorize.)

#26 Comment By Richard Dunn On April 27, 2007 @ 3:22 pm

“Agree with me about X and then we’ll ignore how obscenely wrong I am about Y and Z.”

You sound like our President.

#27 Comment By Whitney Wilson ’90 On April 27, 2007 @ 3:31 pm

As far as I am concerned, there should be no official punishment of Ms. Julia by the College (or unofficial suggestions that taking some time off “might be a good idea for you.”) That’s not to say that she might not have some uncomfortable moments over the next few months.

The internet postings of her boyfriend are fairly disturbing. I don’t believe she has an obligation to publicly “disavow” him, but she shouldn’t be surprised if others take the lack of such action as endorsement, and criticize her accordingly.

#28 Comment By Loweeel On April 27, 2007 @ 3:34 pm

Whitney, I wholly agree with your comments. I think that Bong Hits 4 Hitler’s silence about the content of Idiot Boyfriend™’s friendster page, given its clear relevance to the message of her posters and her obvious knowledge of its content, constitutes at least tacit approval until we hear otherwise.

#29 Comment By hwc On April 27, 2007 @ 3:35 pm

Does anyone here think that Julia should be punished by the College?

For what?

I do not believe that Julia should be punished for the one-time Bong Hits 4 Hitler activity.

Why? The rationale is spelled out in the detailed harrassment/hate speech policies published by some colleges and representative of the current thinking in academia. Under those policies, the Bong Hits 4 Hitler could be justifiably be considered hate speech or harrassment based on the context as a direct response to the Holocaust Remembrance by Jewish students. However, the policies specifically reject punishment for a single event in order to provide a teaching moment to the offender. In other words, the policies prefer that an offender come to understand the hate or harrassment over simple punishment.

That is where Julia’s continued lack of understanding or growth or learning starts to become problematic viz-a-viz the policies. In other words, I am making a distinction between the initial act and her subsequent behavior…her failure to recognize the hurt she caused in the community, her lack of contrition, her continued non-empathetic, self-righteous communications, etc. Apologize on Monday and the whole thing gets chalked up to youthful indiscretion. Now, I think Morty’s in a tough spot.

I know several avenues that I would probably follow were I in Morty’s shoes, but I don’t want to post them and tip Julia off beyond the first approach which would be to do everything I could do to reach out and break through to her to interrupt her current tailspin.

#30 Comment By ephmom On April 27, 2007 @ 4:08 pm

Given that self-published information reveals Julia’s actions to be those of other than a dewy-eyed, naive teenager; in light of recent revelations affecting the top of the admissions chain at fellow COFHE institution MIT; and in the interest of full disclosure, I believe the Williams Admission Office would be remiss if they failed to revisit her 2005 application for admission. As the football player from St. Paul’s learned, misrepresentation can legitimately bring into question the suitability or fit of a student for any particular campus community.

#31 Comment By Loweeel On April 27, 2007 @ 4:12 pm

Ephmom, I agree with you on most things, but not on this. I don’t think that viewpoint discrimination, even on viewpoints as odious as those she refuses to disavow, are simply unwarranted.

Concealing or lying about disciplinary infractions or grades is one thing, because the college asks comportment and academic performance; but I don’t think the College asks about unpopular opinions or those that people wouldn’t say in polite company (and who would disclose those on a college app anyway?) on the Application. Thus, there’s no duty to disclose something that they don’t ask about.

#32 Comment By ephmom On April 27, 2007 @ 4:17 pm

Loweeel: I agree with you. But if her high school record as presented in her admission application was in any “misrepresented,” the College has an obligation to terminate their agreement with her (as MIT did with Marilee Jones).

#33 Comment By Horace On April 27, 2007 @ 4:28 pm

To learn is to gain knowledge or information and the truth about something.
It is to communicate knowledge to, that is, to teach.
He who is taught learns, not he who teaches.

Let us examine the posters:
Poster 1 – Creation of the Autobahn 1933 “This is not merely the hour in which we begin the building of the greatest network of roads in the world, this hour is at the same time a milestone on the road towards the building up of the community of the German people.”

Poster 2 – Unity, Not Division February 24, 1920 “The common interest before self-interest – that is the spirit of the program. Breaking of the thralldom of interest – that is the kernel of National Socialism.”

Poster 3 – Eternal Values over Materialism 1889-1945 “It may be that today gold has become the exclusive ruler of life, but the time will come when man will again bow down to a higher god.”

Poster 4 – Reviving the Spirit of Unity 1889-1945 “The National Governement will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and cooperation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built.”

What do these posters tell us?
How do these posters incite fear, anger, and other reactions?
Are these posters filled with hate?
What are we to understand from them?
Why did the person who posted them choose these quotations?
Do we have the right to hear them?
Is the historical significance of this vilified person beyond the bounds of historical review?

Are we to censure “everyman” who examines authentically the historical significance of this historical figure? Are the political realities of the revolutionary spirit that lead to the revolution in Russia, the revolutionary movements throughout Europe and the United States of any significance to this debate?
(Please read Billington’s Fire In The Hearts of Men’s Minds.)

Finally, here is an old song some of you may remember in tribute to Mr. Gaudino:

Gaudeamus igitur, Let us therefore rejoice,
Juvenes dum sumus; While we are young;
Post icundum iuventutem, After our youth,
Post molestam senectutem After a troublesome old age
Nos habebit humus. The ground will hold us.

Vita nostra brevis est, Our life is brief,
Brevi finietur; It will shortly end;
Venit mors velociter, Death comes quickly,
Rapit nos atrociter; Cruelly snatches us;
Nemini parcetur. No-one is spared.

Ubi sint qui ante nos Where are those who before us
In mundo fuere? Existed in the world?
Vadite ad superos, You may go up to the gods,
Transite in inferos You may cross into the underworld
Hos si vis videre. If you wish to see them.

Vivat academia, Long live the university,
Vivant professores, Long live the teachers,
Vivat membrum quodlibet, Long live each male student,
Vivat membra quaelibet; Long live each female student;
Semper sint in flore! May they always flourish!

Vivat et republica Long live the state
Et qui illam regit. And those who rule it.
Vivat nostra civitas, Long live our city,
Maecenatum caritas And the charity of benefactors
Quae nos hic protegit. Which protects us here.

Vivant omnes virgines, Long live all young women,
Faciles, formosae! Easy and beautiful!
Vivant et mulieres, Long live wives as well,
Tenerae, amabiles, Tender, loveable,
Bonae, laboriosae. Honest, hardworking.

Pereat tristitia, Perish sadness,
Pereant osores. Perish haters.
Pereat diabolus, Perish the devil,
Quivis antiburschius Whoever is against the student fraternity,
Atque irrisores! As well those who mock us!

Quis confluxus hodie Who has gathered now
Academicorum? Of the university?
E longinquo convenerunt, They gather from long distances,
Protinusque successerunt Immediately joining
In commune forum. Our common forum.

Vivat nostra societas, Long live our fellowship,
Vivant studiosi! Long live the studious!
Crescat una veritas, May truth and honesty thrive,
Floreat fraternitas, Flourish with our fraternity,
Patriae prosperitas. And our homeland be prosperous.

Alma Mater floreat, May our Alma Mater thrive,
Quae nos educavit; That which educated us;
Caros et commilitones, Dear ones and comrades,
Dissitas in regiones Who we let scatter afar,
Sparsos, congregavit. Let us assemble.

Ridentem dicere verum quid vetat? (What forbids a laughing man from telling the truth? )
Answer: Magnas inter oper inops – (A pauper in the midst of wealth.)

Adieu!

#34 Comment By frank uible On April 27, 2007 @ 4:38 pm

Let’s fly speck every one’s applications and terminate them all!

#35 Comment By ephmom On April 27, 2007 @ 4:48 pm

frank: Don’t you think any current Ephs are truly honorable at all?

#36 Comment By Richard Dunn On April 27, 2007 @ 4:52 pm

I invite all those more proficient in German than myself to chime in:

The American People and the people living in America are fairly interchangeable. When Hitler uses the phrase, “German people” he would have use “Das Deutsche Volk” and it connotes those of German ethnic heritage. There was some controversy about the inscription above the Reichstag “Dem Deutschen Volke” (to the German people) since it recalls a nationalist sentiment.

“The self-interest” and “gold” are references to Jewish stereotypes. The very goal of NS regime was to create unity through common enemies (communists and Jews in particular).

“Unity” was not only a shared purpose or ideal but also about a shared ethnic identity.

Anyone with half a second of time should have put each of these quotes in its proper context and would have realized their deeper meaning beyond materialism and infrastructure.

#37 Comment By Prof On April 27, 2007 @ 5:24 pm

While there is much in Ms Julia’s actions to criticize, the most disturbing critique of her is that the posters “terrified” certain Williams students and therefore constitute “hate speech”, an “attack”, etc.. The premise, of course, is that every person’s emotions are both inherently reasonable and require general validation by the community.

I do not doubt that some were indeed “terrified” at the sight of Ms Julia’s posters. Is that a reasonable reaction, however? Ms Julia claims she felt “afraid” to remove the original WCJA poster. Is that a reasonable reaction? Or are we not allowed to ask such questions because the pinnacle of morality is to validate one another’s feelings?

#38 Comment By Loweeel On April 27, 2007 @ 5:36 pm

I think both reactions are unreasonable, though Bong Hits 4 Hitler’s is ridiculously more so — it’s like claiming that students were afraid to throw out the graphic anti-abortion materials that periodically appeared in my SU Box. I don’t think that her postering, without more an attachment to an actual threat, can constitute an “attack” as opposed to a vague, immature, and poorly-thought out attempt at a critique.

I also don’t believe in the concept of hate speech. Speech alone is nothing but a warning sign at most; treating it differently just incentivizes an attitude of perpetual aggrievement and eggshell egos, and I say this as a proudly Zionist Jew with numerous relatives who died in the Holocaust.

Attempting to regulate the marketplace of ideas is, if anything, more problematic, potentially harmful, and prone to the law of unintended consequences than regulation of economic markets (and yes Richard, I’m not saying that there’s NO place for it whatsoever or that it’s all bad) Sunlight is the best disinfectant. And no, students being upset enough to CRY over her posters is not a reasonable reaction to this or any other idea, no matter how heinous or wrong-headed.

#39 Comment By Anonymous On April 27, 2007 @ 5:42 pm

“Ms Julia claims she felt ‘afraid’ to remove the original WCJA poster.”

Disingenuous at best; most likely, contrivance.

#40 Comment By Ironic Justice On April 27, 2007 @ 5:45 pm

It might be a dirty truth, but relative community standards play an essential role in governing human behavior; if you can imagine a society that operates entirely *without* standards (from a basis of pure reason or from mutually shared direct inspiration) post it. And communities will enforce these standards, regardless of the ultimate ‘justice’ of such enforcement.

Imagine if someone anonymously postered campus with highly abusive racial epiphets directly targeted at a specific group. I would expect the person would be punished, and probably without too much handwringing.

Julia’s conduct clearly fell short of that, but by how much is a matter of debate. I think, at times, people underestimate the uniqueness of the Holocaust as an atrocity; the mechanized realization of a dedicated plan for eugenics happened within living memory. It was the culmination of the human nightmare, and not something to be taken lightly.

I don’t know if there should be institutional punishment of Ms. Julia’s conduct, but I certainly think she deserves to be raked over the coals of shame for a while (particularly since evidence has emerged she may actually be anti-semitic, as opposed to merely having a bad sense of how to be a provacateur). If you can’t learn by argument or by positive reinforcement…

#41 Comment By hwc On April 27, 2007 @ 5:50 pm

No, the premise is that harrassment or intimidation must be evaluated in context.

There are contexts in which dressing up in Nazi uniforms would not be harrassment (e.g. a production of the Sound of Music). There are other contexts where it would (e.g. walking into a service at the local synagogue).

From what I have been able to find, Williams does not have a detailed statement of policy regarding harrassment or intimidation; however, statements from Dean Roseman in response to several incidents suggest that the College informally endorses similar concepts outlined in more detailed policy statements at similar colleges.

One element in these more detailed policy statements is the notion of a reasonable expectation that the behavior in question would be perceived as intimidating or harrassing. I believe that reasonable expection would apply to papering a campus with Hitler posters in response to Holocaust Remembrance day, just as there would be a reasonable expectation that shouting the n-word to a group of black students would be intimidating or harrassing.

These detailed policies are actually quite useful because they law out a sequence of tests that strike a balance between the goals of preserving free expression of ideas and providing a campus free of intimidation or harrassment. My reading of these detailed “decision trees” is that the single act of papering the campus with Hitler posters would not constitute a violation, because it does not meet the test of repeated actions inserted in the policy to provide an opportunity for a teaching moment and subsequent change in behavior.

The subsequent threat of violence against a student by one of the participants in the Bong Hits 4 Hitler postering, and the public endorsement of that threat by the other party, moves the discussion to a different place.

#42 Comment By Andrew On April 27, 2007 @ 5:53 pm

David, you seem to miss the point. A t-shirt isn’t immediately threatening — it’s a girl wearing an offensive t-shirt. She has a right to offend me, as long she doesn’t use ‘fighting words’. She has a right to make me uncomfortable, to a point.

She doesn’t have the right to do anything that, given a moment’s pause, she could reasonably be expected to anticipate would scare the hell out of people. The threat is in having Hitler on your door. It’s not a matter of private property, it’s a matter of having a symbol of Jewish annihilation posted on your door, like a threat. Qualitatively this akin finding blood, or a swastika, or a flaming cross on your door, just not quite as bad, and not quite as obviously frightening to a non-Jew.

There are other ways for her to deliver the same damn satire (like wearing a teacher, or posting the sign in a neutral hallway, or on her door) that are not threatening. But here she has brigaded her speech with action in a way that was facially interpreted as a threatening.

I’m making a fairly limited point, David. I’m NOT broadly rejecting her right to satire in this fashion (though I find her sense of satire…lacking) or asserting people’s unlimited right to protection from certain speech content.

#43 Comment By ’10 On April 27, 2007 @ 6:00 pm

Andrew:

the presence of Hitler on students’ doors did scare and threaten many students, and could EASILY have been predicted to do so …

It is ok that you cannot understand that. You have viewed the material in the light of what it is in itself, instead of having first seen it posted on your front door. And you’re not Jewish. Taken together, those facts make it damn hard for you to understand what went on here.

How can you concede that it’s very difficult for most non-Jews to understand the reaction that some people would have to a poster like this, and then turn around and fault Julia for not predicting that reaction?

#44 Comment By Loweeel On April 27, 2007 @ 6:01 pm

There are other contexts where it would (e.g. walking into a service at the local synagogue).

Well, yes, but a synagogue is private property, so it’s not really an issue of harassment so much as an issue of property rights. In the public realm, even when it’s deliberately harassing, like Skokie in the 70’s, “harassment” is still permitted, as long as there is no attempt to intimidate (which the prosecution must prove, under Virginia v. Black). Now there may be a tort for intentional infliction of emotional distress, but criminal charges probably could not arise from mere harassment under the first amendment.

#45 Comment By hwc On April 27, 2007 @ 6:10 pm

BTW, I should point out that religious groups (such as Jewish students) are a protected group under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 which apply to Williams College.

It is a violation of federal law to allow a discriminatory harrassment towards, or a hostile work or academic environment for, any of the protected groups defined in these laws.

If Williams College were to allow the continued, repeated posting of anti-semitic materials they would be vulnerable to a significant Title IX discrimination lawsuit.

#46 Comment By rory On April 27, 2007 @ 6:14 pm

but williams college is also a private property. and no one is talking about criminal charges, just why this is construed as harrasment where the same imagery might not be seen that way.

I’m remind of the south part about the n-word (and not just because it was on again this week). Token’s entire point in the show was that Stan didn’t get what hurt until Stan acknowledged that, at some level, he doesn’t get it.

I believe this is similar–Andrew’s use of the term “understand” is key. David might or might not understand why students felt so hurt/threatened, but he could still foresee it as a possiblity.

#47 Comment By Anonymous On April 27, 2007 @ 6:38 pm

How would anyone be able to identify the Jewish students so they could be targetted for harassment unless the adminstration made them wear gold stars and mark their doors appropriately?

Do you think criticism of a religion or its history constitutes hatred? What if a student group started posting very rude comments about the pope and Catholicism and would not stop despite hurting feelings?

Your claims would open a big bag of worms and I’m not convinced they pass legal muster.

#48 Comment By hwc On April 27, 2007 @ 6:51 pm

What if a student group started posting very rude comments about the pope and Catholicism and would not stop despite hurting feelings?

The protected group (in this case, the Catholic students or employees) would have a legitimate basis for a lawsuit against Williams College under the Civil Rights Act and subsequent amendments. Under the law, Williams College is obligated to provide a work and academic environment free from discrimination, harrassment, or intimidation of groups protected under the law (on the basis of religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.)

In order to protect itself under these statutes, Williams has to make an affirmative effort to address instances of harrassment or intimidation.

#49 Comment By ephmom On April 27, 2007 @ 7:32 pm

“then turn around and fault Julia”

Remember, as reported in the 4/25/07 Record, Julia said: “I realized that people would be offended by the posters.”

She achieved her intended effect.

#50 Comment By rory On April 27, 2007 @ 8:05 pm

anonymous–writing “you” is not specific enough on a comment board. who were you writing to?

nevermind, I’ll answer.

1. You don’t need to only put the poster on the doors of jewish students. putting the poster up indiscriminately is still going to be targetting jews. For an easier image of it, picture someone putting up posters with images of a burning cross all over campus. clearly, black students would be targetted, even if it weren’t only on black students’ doors.
2. criticism of a religious doctrine is not hatred unless presented in a hateful way. but hitler posters are not criticism of a religion.

i’m still trying to understand why this is at all about the law and legal standards. this should be about williams and the williams community and its standards, which are going to be different from legal standards (legally, the girl can put the posters up. But this certainly breaks Williams community standards. sanctions should be informal to use sociology speak–as in no warning letter in her “file”–but severe).

#51 Comment By Anonymous On April 27, 2007 @ 8:20 pm

And not only Jews (and Gypsies and Homosexuals and the Handicapped), but also Poles, French, Dutch, Czechs, Norwegians, Greeks, et al could be said to be targetted by Hitler posters. With the very diverse international student community there could be many separate aggrieved parties who feel threatened by those posters.

#52 Comment By Loweeel On April 27, 2007 @ 8:24 pm

I think there’s a pretty big distinction between (in increasing magnitude) taking offense, hurt feelings, general harassment (which is not banned), and discriminatory harassment within the meaning of these statutes.

HWC, here’s the text of Here’s Title IX of the 1972 Acts, comprising SS. 1681-88.

S. 1681 (Sex Discrimination) only applies to public undergraduate institutions, which Williams is not. S. 1681(A)(1). 1682 is enforcement and reporting. 1683 provides for judicial review of agency actions pursuant to the other provisions of the Title. 1684 prohibits discrimination on the basis of visual impairment or blindness. 1685 explicitly leaves all other laws unchanged. 1686 and 1687 explicitly define living facilities and programs and activities, respectively. 1688 concerns abortion.

There’s nothing in Title IX about discrimination or harassment that applies to Williams in this instance or any of the hypotheticals we’ve discussed. Nor does it contain anything remotely applicable to any religious group that does not include deliberately-infliced visual impairment as one of its tenets. (The nice part of this is that the sex discrimination portions Title IX as enacted doesn’t apply to Williams! Yay helmet sports and wrestling!)

#53 Comment By Loweeel On April 27, 2007 @ 8:53 pm

As for the 1964 Act:

Title I (Voting Rights) is inapplicable;

Title II (Public Accommodations) probably does not apply to students attending Williams (as opposed to people watching an athletic contest or attending an open-to-the-public exhibition. Even if Williams were found to be a “public accomodation” for its students (which unfortunately remains a possibility, given the blatant evasion of that language, particularly under Clinton-era enforcement, in which the censorship-loving Deval Patrick took a very active role), I don’t really know how this “harassment” would prevent “full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, and privileges, advantages, and accommodations” as S. 201 of Title II of the 1964 Act requires.

Title III is inapplicable, as there’s no segregation. Title IV is inapplicable, as Williams is not public education. Title V outlines procedures for the Commission on Civil Rights.

Title VI prevents discrimination in programs receiving Federal assistance (which probably would include students at Williams, through tuition assistance and loans), but it does not cover discrimination on the basis of religion (see S. 601), so you’d have to argue the racial aspect of Judaism (as opposed to ethnicity), which would be a tough sell in this day and age. It wouldn’t apply to the Catholicism example, nor to any other non-ethnic/racial religious group.

Title VII covers employment and is thus inapposite. So are Titles VIII (Registration and Voting Stats), IX (procedural jurisdictional details), X (community relations) or XI (miscellaneous provisions that don’t apply).

So HWC, having actually read through these statutes, I have to say that you’re clearly wrong on both counts about discrimination suits arising under both statutes you cited.

#54 Comment By hwc On April 27, 2007 @ 8:56 pm

Loweel:

You are misinterpreting the statute.

Section 1681 refers to admissions policies. It says that it is illegal to ban women (or men) at a vocational, professional, or graduate school or at a public undergrad school (this is why VMI is coed). It is legal to have a private single-sex undergrad college (Wellesley, Smith, et al).

The law applies to:

“For the purposes of this title, the term “program or activity” and “program” mean all of the operations of …. a college, university, or other postsecondary institution…any part of which is extended Federal financial assistance…”

Williams is most definitely covered by this law. They report their Title IX athletics data to the federal government every year (it’s where I found the athletics budget).

There are a series of these Civil Rights laws defining protected groups, starting with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (race, religion, etc.) extended to include gender (Title IX and continuing through additional amendments covering handicapped students (ramps at entranceways, etc.) and more recently, sexual orientation.

This series of laws is why all colleges have anti-discrimination, equal opportunity disclaimers on all of their printed materials, why they must have a designate Equal Opportunity Officer, and why they must have specific posted policies, such as this one.

Keep in mind that conforming to these Civil Rights laws relies not only on the text of the original laws, but also on court precedents established over the years.

#55 Comment By hwc On April 27, 2007 @ 9:11 pm

Loweel: See Title VI. Williams College is a covered employer. They are required to provide a workplace free of harrassment or intimidation of protected groups, including religion.

Jewish staff, Jewish faculty, Jewish student workers, and Jewish college presidents could make a legitimate claim that a workplace routinely covered with Hitler posters is not a workplace free from harrassment or intimidation of a specific religious group.

Every college has anti-discrminination policies specifically citing this string of Federal statutes. I assume that lawyers hired by colleges with $1 billion endowments probably have a pretty good read of the Civil Rights laws.

#56 Comment By Loweeel On April 27, 2007 @ 9:11 pm

You’re right — I missed the part about 1681(a) only applying to admissions. But it applies to sex, not “gender”, which, as the WGST folks and QSU like to remind us, are very different things. There is no “gender” anti-discrimination provision in these acts.

But there’s still nothing in the 1972 acts about religion, and nothing in the 1964 acts about prohibiting religious discrimination at private institutions, other than the narrow area of discrimination in hiring/firing/promotion.

Can you show me something to the contrary? I’m not asking for something as unrelated as the facts at Williams, but the much easier case of the institution receiving federal aid discriminating on the basis of religion saying that private institutions cannot.

I’m well aware that statutes’ meaning is often brought out in precedent; I’ve spent the last three years of my life going over it.

#57 Comment By hwc On April 27, 2007 @ 9:25 pm

Rather than wade through 43 years of evolving Civil Rights legislation, how about if I point you to the applicable page of the fedearl US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:

at this link

Again, Williams College is workplace that falls under these guidelines. Note that everything on this page refers to harrassment or any other employment action.

I would point you specifically to this paragraph:

Harassment

Employers must provide a workplace that is free of harassment based on national origin, ethnicity, or religion. They may be liable not only for harassment by supervisors, but also by coworkers or by non-employees under their control. Employers should clearly communicate to all employees – through a written policy or other appropriate mechanism – that harassment such as ethnic slurs or other verbal or physical conduct directed toward any racial, ethnic, or religious group is prohibited and that employees must respect the rights of their coworkers. An employer also should have effective and clearly communicated policies and procedures for addressing complaints of harassment and should train managers on how to identify and respond effectively to harassment even in the absence of a complaint.

#58 Comment By Loweeel On April 27, 2007 @ 9:28 pm

In fact, Title VII by its own text does not apply to education:

EXEMPTION
SEC. 702. This title shall not apply to an employer with respect to the employment of aliens outside any State, or to a religious corporation, association, or society with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, or society of its religious activities or to an educational institution with respect to the employment of individuals to perform work connected with the educational activities of such institution.

This is not just the work of the educational actitivies, but all “work connected with the educational activities”, which is more than just professors, TA’s and support staff. By the title, it would probably also exempt the “assistant professors of physical education” (i.e., coaches), and therefore, athletic-related employees as well.

Furthermore, there is nothing in the 1964 act that even hints at “hostile environment” suits, let alone such environments created by parties not in employment privity with either party in the employer-employee relationship.

Let’s go through the specific activities (not the groups) condemned by the 1964 act:

“to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment,” 703(a)(1)

“to limit, segregate, or classify his employees in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee,” 703(a)(2).

“to print or publish or cause to be printed or published any notice or advertisement relating to employment by such an employer or membership in or any classification or referral for employment by such a labor organization, or relating to any classification or referral for employment by such an employment agency, indicating any preference, limitation, specification, or discrimination, based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” when the specification is not a bona fide occupational qualification. 704(b).

Nope, nothing about harassment or permitting a “hostile environment” to exist.

In plain english, it covers: hiring, firing, promotions, segregation/classification of employees that limits advancement, or advertising for employment based on a forbidden criteria without a bona fide occupational qualification.

#59 Comment By Loweeel On April 27, 2007 @ 9:43 pm

HWC, you’re moving the goalposts. You said: “I should point out that religious groups (such as Jewish students) are a protected group under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 which apply to Williams College.

Your latter claim, that Title IX protects religious groups, is clearly incorrect; while you haven’t admitted it, you haven’t argued against it.

Nor does the 1964 act protect students qua students. It may incidentally protect students by protecting employees (which would include a portion of students), but you still haven’t accounted for the exemption in S. 702, which explicitly exempts educational institutions and their employees “connected with he educational activities” from the requirements of Title VII of the 1964 act.

With regard to the EEOC website (which is helpful general advice, not any agency rules or regulation), “May” has a specific meaning in the legal context. It differs from “must”; just as “should” is not must. The EEOC guidelines were clearly written by a lawyer who wanted avoid extreme hypothetical situations (e.g., the employer for some reason doesn’t prohibit “White Power Dave”, a total stranger with no business being there, from coming onto the premises and harassing employees).

I’d actually prefer your interpretation — there wouldn’t be anything racy coming out of the women/gender studies departments across the country, or the various racial studies departments and programs. For example, I don’t know how Williams could hire Grant Farred without liability under your interpretation, given his vile rantings on race that he spewed out in attempting to defend Mike Nifong and smear the Duke Lacrosse players.

#60 Comment By hwc On April 27, 2007 @ 10:36 pm

Loweeel:

You might want to look at the current text of the statute. As I say, it has changed over the years, most recently in 1991, I believe:

EXEMPTION

SEC. 2000e-1. [Section 702]

(a) This subchapter shall not apply to an employer with respect to the employment of aliens outside any State, or to a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, educational institution, or society of its activities.

This exemption is to allow religious schools, such as Notre Dame for example, to give preference to Catholic employees. Williams College is non-sectarian.

See the following majority opinion by Renqhuist in Mentor Savings Bank v. Vinton for the rationale behind extending protection to include more general harrassment:

Supreme Court decision

In the decision, Renquist cites this language of Title VII:

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it

an unlawful employment practice for an employer . . . to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Renqhuist then continues to cite a litany of precedent establishing that discrimination includes a wide range of “hostile environment” harrassment conditions, not just loss of wages or firing or promotion. I believe that the controlling word in in the statute is “conditions”. In other words, you can have workplace harrasment based solely on making someone miserable.

He also cites a list of precedent giving weight to the EOCC Guidelines, since the Act established the EOCC as the enforcement agency. The EOCC guidelines spell out workplace harrassment as a clear violation.

And, anticipating your next objection, yes this was a sexual harrassment case. But, note the language of Title VII above. It’s the same law for ALL of the protected groups: race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

There are additional cases after this one, including Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc. 510 U.S. 17 (1993).

#61 Comment By Loweeel On April 28, 2007 @ 12:10 am

You are correct that the statute as amended most recently has altered the exemption from the original version. I’m STILL waiting on your admission that you were wholly incorrect about Title IX having any applicability on protecting Jewish students qua Jews, or any other religious group, either inside or out of in the context of education.

1. The EEOC Guidelines are not the same thing as the “advice” on the page you linked to, which is not even an EEOC summary of Guidance; they are specific documents (with “Guidelines” or “Guidance” in the title) issued by the EEOC. An example would be the documents listed on the right column of this page.

2. The Guidelines are not statute, they’re rules. They were cited because the EEOC, as an agency, is allowed to enforce its own current interpretation of statutes. The next President’s EEOC could (in theory), with proper procedures (which I won’t get into), issue new guidelines saying that hostile environment sexual harassment is NOT part of Title VII. See Chevron v. NRDC. So to be precise, “hostile environment” harassment is not part of the statute, but something that’s been grafted on by the agency and upheld because of deference to agencies’ interpretations of their enabling statutes.

3. My objection is not that it’s sexual harassment per se; my objection is that in all these cases, the “hostile environment” is created by the actions of an employer or other employees. Under Chevron, the interpretation of statute has to be reasonable; all the prohibited actions in the text of the statute are EMPLOYER’s actions. Basically, the EEOC is not unreasonably reading the word “conditions” in “It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer (1) to … otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his … conditions … of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;” (703(a)(1)) to include a hostile work environment. (Though ostensibly “not unreasonable,” this is incorrect IMO, because the term “conditions” read properly in context refers to a reason for hiring or firing, ala the “terms and conditions” of a contract.) Based on that construction, the Employer is legally at fault because the employer is vicariously liable for the on-the-job and work-related actions of his employees, a common theme throughout most areas of the law.

It is a far cry to say, using sexual harassment facts analogous to this context, that the Employer is liable for the unwelcome sexual harassment of a CUSTOMER (i.e., a student), when the employer or the employee’s superior isn’t urging or even suggesting that the harassed employee somehow satisfy the customer’s desires to help the company or advance the employee’s career. There has to be something more than a customer harassing an employee for the employer to be liable for it. Similarly, while Williams **might possibly** (see below) be liable for a faculty member’s racially, religiously, national origin-based, sex-based, etc. statements, publications, actions, etc. that create a hostile environment for another faculty member, that liability arises because Williams is vicariously liable for its employees. Williams is not vicariously liable for its CUSTOMERS’, i.e., its students’, statements or actions.

4. If there ever were an “academic” case under Title VII for religious/racial hostile environment, it would have been Columbia’s Jewish and/or Israeli professors based on the wide publications and public statements of the MEALAC faculty about Jews and Israel, which make Julia’s “Bong Hits 4 Hitler” look like amateur hour. If that’s not a clear-cut case of a hostile environment based on religion or national origin, I don’t know what would be. Yet somehow this “can’t miss” lawsuit was never filed, even with all the whistleblower and non-retaliation protections, probably because these would be would be trumped in the academic context by a University’s implied “Academic Freedom” right to have and choose a message, and on that basis, decline to suppress messages from some of its employees that other employees would find to create a hostile environment. This would be a much stronger case than Julia due to the employer’s vicarious liability for the employees under the EEOC guidelines interpreting Title VII. (The exceedingly weak Rumsfeld v. FAIR “compelled speech” arguments are actually much more on point to this whole area than what they were strained to support in that case)

Similarly, it would be puzzling, odd, and seemingly wildly contrary to the modern idea of a college (though really fantastic!) if the Israeli professors at Columbia could sue the university under hostile environment law for NOT SUPPRESSING the fairly well-attended and frequent student protests demonizing Israel, Israeli policies, U.S. aid to Israel, and the like, which often featuring Hitler comparisons. The scale and vitriol of these also puts Julia to shame.

So, is there a “hostile environment” for those Israeli professors, as your doctrine must conclude? Does your formulation have an as-yet undisclosed loophole? Or am I right?

#62 Comment By hwc On April 28, 2007 @ 12:53 am

Loweeel:

This is all moot for at least two more years because:

a) the Bush administration has gutted the Civil Right Enforcment division of the Justice Department and

b) Even if they hadn’t, they wouldn’t lift a finger unless it were a white male defense contractor (and campaign contributor) being harmed. The only Civil Rights cases they are interested in are those might keep black and hispanic voters from going to the polls to vote against them.

As for Title IX, the only point I was trying to make when I included that (it was a direct quote from a college harrassment policy) was that a growing series of protected groups have been defined by a continuing series of related legislative acts, including, but not limited to, the Civil Rights Act and Title IX. There’s at least one or two more covering disabilities and there are additions concerning sexual orientation cropping up. Plus, there are state statutes…and I’m just taking a wild guess that Massachusetts is probably a little beyond the federal rules. As a complete package along with Court rulings, these civil rights laws basically prohibit discrimination and harrassment of the protected groups by almost every company or organization.

Be that as it may, the various state and federal laws determine how the colleges word their harrassment policies and those policies, in turn, drive the decision making at the colleges. This is isn’t a case where Morty has to be dragged kicking and screaming by the Feds to stop harrassing Jewish members of the Williams community.

I guarantee that Morty would soon stop a student from hanging neo-Nazi Hitler posters on campus (or shouting the n-word), week after week after week after week (the “repeated” part of harrassment). Because, guess what? If he didn’t, he’d find himself with declining numbers of Jewish applicants or faculty and probably a declining number applicants period. Most students the caliber of Williams students don’t want to be surrounded by bigotry or, if they do, they choose schools that are known for it.

Julia is not worth Morty waking up to find a “Bong Hits 4 Hitler at Williams College” in the New York Times!

#63 Comment By Anonymous On April 28, 2007 @ 3:21 am

Look, let’s cut the crap.

Julia is a bigot and a dupe and her boyfriend is a Neo Nazi bully. Enough of the horseshit benefit of the doubt. And if he wants to play his little bad ass tough guy woe is me game, let him drag his ass down and threaten this alum. I live in Odessa, Texas, I’m in the phone book, and I will gladly stomp a mudhole in his chest. Test me, you anti-semitic assbag. Please.

Let Frank Uible continue to apologize for these fucking assclowns. I’m not the sophisticate that some of you all are — for me the fighting words doctrine means if you say X around me I’m going to break your teeth. And your saying X will be a pretty nice mitigating circumstance. But I’ll bet it won’t make court. The sorts of folks who ask for a world that is judenrein tend to be very selective about how vocally they embrace the legal system. It’s their way.

At a certain point civility fails. And he made the rhetoric about violence, not me. I have devoted my life to teaching, writing about, and understanding civil rights, and I’m not about to give him or her equal time. Some things are just simply beyond the pale. And frankly, the rest of you can spend your time understanding the girl who distributed the Hitler poster whose white supremacist boyfriend wants a Jew free world. It was parody, after all. “Uncomfortable learning.” Sure it fucking was.

dcat

#64 Comment By frank uible On April 28, 2007 @ 4:07 am

dcat: Correction – “you’re going to try to break teeth.”

#65 Comment By ephmom On April 28, 2007 @ 4:13 am

dcat: What would have happened in your college community if Julia had posted her Hitler posters there (or has someone there even done something anti-Semitic/ white supremacist like this in the recent past?)?

#66 Comment By Anonymous On April 28, 2007 @ 5:33 am

WSO is down at Williams.

Is this a threat from Julia?

“A few posts ago, I told you so. Only to be marginalized and to have my ip address plastered all over this blog…. well… I told you so.
April 27, 2007 11:47 p.m.”

#67 Comment By hwc On April 28, 2007 @ 10:16 am

And frankly, the rest of you can spend your time understanding the girl who distributed the Hitler poster whose white supremacist boyfriend wants a Jew free world. It was parody, after all. “Uncomfortable learning.” Sure it fucking was.

I am in 100% agreement with this statement.

It looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and waddles like a duck. Folks, it’s a duck.

#68 Comment By Derek On April 28, 2007 @ 1:28 pm

Obviously I’ve no idea what Williams would have done in my day — probably the same thing it is doing now. She is simply contemptible. He is the big concern and he should not be allowed to try to intimidats, harass, or frighten students, faculty, or anyone else. I think the college is handling the incident as well as it can. My biggest concern is for those (admittedly few) people who try to apologize or rationalize or simply explain this sort of noxiousness.

dcat

#69 Comment By ephmom On April 28, 2007 @ 1:45 pm

dcat: Has this sort of thing happened on the campus of the college you’re at now?

#70 Comment By Derek On April 29, 2007 @ 11:02 pm

Ephmm —
Thankfully no, but if it can happen at Williams, it can happen anywhere, and mine is a “Hispanic Serving Institution,” so certainly the possiblity of racially-oriented issues could emerge.
I’m not certain what would happen at my state school, though I have to assume faculty (and of course admin) would call for a pretty strong stand as soon as an offending student or his or her significant other started posing threats to the student community. I think that certain brands of anti-Semitism by definition are threatening, but that is probably not viable in terms of free speech.

Cheers —
dc

#71 Comment By Ronit On April 29, 2007 @ 11:31 pm

I think Derek has expressed everything I’ve ever wanted to say about this.