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Queer Bash

Queer Bash is tonight.

QUEER BASH!!!!

Project RunGay
The Objective: Retro-Fashion Show

Here’s your chance to test the limits of your style (and sexuality!). Come in your favourite retro outfits, and party the night away on our very own catwalk!

Goodrich Hall. 10pm – 2am

Sponsored by the Queer Student Union.

Want to know what the party is like? Go and find out. And post a video about it. There was an interesting discussion last year at WSO.

But on another note, from a heterosexual student’s perspective, the way Queer Bash is advertized through word of mouth, I wouldn’t have known at all that it is about queers and lesbians. It has devolved into a night (similar to Halloween parties) where you just wear the skankiest clothes you can, have an excuse to get extra drunk, and then be a hedonist in general(straight or gay). Hey…I’ve got nothing against that…fine by me. But like you’ve noted, it’s not at all a forum for “education” about queer life or a safe place for queers to be queer. It may be time for the QSU to really think about whether queer bash accomplishes or has at all accomplished what it is supposed to do.

Here’s another discussion.

I would like to add to the list however of something that personally appalled me. When the drag queen was brought out, she almost immediately pulled a guy from the crowd and threw him on a bed set up on stage. She kept pushing him down on the bed as he kept trying to sit up and then straddled his face and humped his face for at least a full minute as the drag queen went on about … [edited for family reading] … the drag queen mentioned something about having showing this guy his “secret.” Suffice it to say, the guy pulled up on stage didn’t seem pleased. I, and those in the audience around me, were shocked. Someone said that this guy was a freshman. Irrespective of my, or anyone else for that reason, sexual politics, this is inexcusable and reprehensible. While noone is to blame besides the drag queen, this type of action reflects poorly on the QSU and makes a mockery of your aims.

Read the whole thread.

On a related note, there were no e-mail controversies this year. In fact, the WSO e-mail list seems much less used this year. Any reason?

For the record, I still wish that the QBE (Queer Bash E-mail) controversy had continued. Williams needs a thorough debate about freedom of speech. Why didn’t Pritchard give this speech?

“I stand by the content of my original e-mail. Having been raised in a Christian home, I believe that there is a heaven and a hell and that certain people, because of the decisions that they make, are headed for the latter. Prior this controversy, I understood, because of my cultural background, the terms “faggot” and “queer” to be largely synonymous, both in terms of meaning and acceptability. It is since come to my attention that, for some people, the latter is much preferred to the former. If the Dean of the College provides me with a list of terms that are inappropriate for use on campus, either via e-mail or speech, I would be happy to adhere to it. It was not and is not my intent to harass any individual.”

“Williams make a strong claim to encouraging a diversity of viewpoints on its campus. This is an easy claim to make when all the viewpoints agree with your own. It is a much tougher to fulfill when the viewpoints expressed are ones that you find abhorrent. How Williams proceeds with a disciplinary action against me will tell us all a great deal about seriousness with which Williams undertakes its educational mission.”

By the way, were Pritchard or Lucien ever punished? I believe that Pritchard had to take time off for other reasons. No worries though! They are both helping Williams on the football field.

On second thought, this is weird. Both Pritchard and Lucien were listed in the roster early in the year, but now Pritchard is gone, despite being a starter on the team. What is up with that?

Perhaps the Record could write an update on this story, even interviewing Winstanley (the author of the original all-campus e-mail). It would be good for the historical record to know if Pritchard/Lucien were punished and, if not, why not.

More background here and here.

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Issues They Might Have

Continuing my review of the most action-packed Record story of the year (on the controversy surrounding QBE — Queer Bash E-mails), we come to:

Stephen Collingsworth, coordinator of queer issues and assistant director of the Multicultural Center (MCC), echoed the need for education on campus and said he e-mailed the two first years, offering “to help them with any issues they might have”.

“Issues they might have”? Isn’t that just swell? I can just imagine Lucien and Pritchard opening their e-mail and seeing a message from Collingsworth with such an offer. Of course, their immediate reaction would be to see the error of their ways and reach out for help . . .

Yeah, right.

Long time blog readers will recall that I had some thoughts on Collingsworth before.

Assume for a moment that Collingsworth’s approach to Pritchard and Lucien was as ham-handed as the Record makes it appear. On one level, the problem is that we have an official of the college who clearly has no idea how best to change the mindset (ideally) or behavior (minimally) of a couple of garden variety homophobes. On a more fundamental level, however, the question is why Williams has bureaucrats like Collingsworth at all. Shouldn’t his role (potentially an important and valuable one) be filled by a member of the faculty? Wouldn’t almost any member of the faculty, say Tim Cook, do a much better job?

Apologies to Collingsworth if the Record mischaracterized his approach to Lucien and Pritchard.

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Options

Continuing our parsing of the Record article about the QBE (Queer Bash E-mail) controversy, we read, with regards to “action,” presumably disciplinary in nature, that the College might take with respect to Pritchard and Lucien,

What that action might be is unclear, since Lucien could not be reached for comment, and Pritchard declined to comment. “I already offered my point of view,” he said, stating explicitly to the Record that he stood by his original e-mail.

Lucien and, especially, Pritchard have some important decisions. One option would be full scale apology/groveling. They’re sorry. They’ll never do it again. Alcohol might have been involved with the original e-mail, especially with Pritchard. As best I can tell, this is not the route that they are going to take.

Option 2, which might be termed the modified, limited hang-out non-apology. (Older readers will recognize the Watergate terminology.) Lucien might say, “I am sorry that Winstanley took offense at what I wrote. It was not my intention to harass him. It was not my intention that our private communication be broadcast to the larger community. In the future, I will continue to strive to adhere to the Williams standards of conduct.”

This is, obviously, not an apology at all in that Lucien is not expressing regret for the content or style of his e-mails, but only for Winstanley’s reaction to them. Moreover, he is not even admitting that his prior conduct failed to live up to the standards of the Williams community. But, it is still something. I am sure that the College administration would prefer option 1, but I suspect that they might declare victory with option 2, at least in the case of Lucien.

Option 3: Full throated opposition. Imagine that Pritchard said something like:

“I stand by the content of my original e-mail. Having been raised in a Christian home, I believe that there is a heaven and a hell and that certain people, because of the decisions that they make, are headed for the latter. Prior this controversy, I understood, because of my cultural background, the terms “faggot” and “queer” to be largely synonymous, both in terms of meaning and acceptability. It is since come to my attention that, for some people, the latter is much preferred to the former. If the Dean of the College provides me with a list of terms that are inappropriate for use on campus, either via e-mail or speech, I would be happy to adhere to it. It was not and is not my intent to harass any individual.”

“Williams make a strong claim to encouraging a diversity of viewpoints on its campus. This is an easy claim to make when all the viewpoints agree with your own. It is a much tougher to fulfill when the viewpoints expressed are ones that you find abhorrent. How Williams proceeds with a disciplinary action against me will tell us all a great deal about seriousness with which Williams undertakes its educational mission.”

Of course, I find option 3 to be highly unlikely, and not just because neither Pritchard nor Lucien appear to be that eloquent!

;-)

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Appropriate Action

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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Actual E-mails

In order to better evaluate the current campus controversy, it is helpful to see the e-mails in context. Here is Winstanley’s original all-campus e-mail. (Note that all quoted sections below are accurate, with misspellings and bad grammar unchanged.)

Do you find David Bowie incredibly sexy?

Do you still wear leg warmers and fishnets?

Do you have more bracelets than Madonna in Like a Virgin?

Are you not a virgin?

Do you want to see Williams students shed their fleece jackets in favor of semi-nudity?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you definitely want to come down to the glam-rock fantastic QUEER BASH – TONIGHT at GOODRICH from 10-2. Rockin music and wild wild people… It just doesn=B9t get any better.

All of which seems reasonable. Pritchard’s response, however, is not.

Why dont u faggots keep to ur god damn selves. You people disgust me. I keep my heterosexuality to myself. Why dont you queers keep to yourselves. I almost threw up when i saw all that crap you people wrote on the sidewalks last week. You’re all goin to hell. It was adam and eve, not adam and steve.

-Jon Pritchard

Winstanley responded to Pritchard with:

Your email has been forwarded to the deans office, the president and the committee on diversity. You should have done a better job on your grammar.

Do not email me back.

-Nate Winstanley

It is unclear to me whether Pritchard and Lucien were aware of each other. Campus civility is, obviously, under much more threat if two students, acting independently, both thought to respond to Winstanley in a similar manner. In any event, Lucien, in reply to the all campus mailing, wrote:

i thought of an idea, an email such as this one must NEVER be sent to me again, never. therefore, i am saying: take me off of the queer bash party list and all other queer events.

most grateful,

luc

Winstanley responded with:

It was an all campus email, filtered by WSO for content.

If it offends you, delete it.

I’d rather not get emails from a lot of groups, but I deal.

And so should you.

-nate

Lucien seems less than pleased with this suggestion. He responds with:

or another idea: send ur flippin emails ta all ur queer friends and no one
else…BINGO (the light goes on)

deal that

And that is the record of events, as best I can determine.

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Fear of God

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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