Five Things You Can’t Do

Five Things You Can’t Do at SFSU — And three that you can

In light of the incident at SFSU, I signed up with Joe Katzman’s blog-burst effort today, and asked for a piece to respond to for my blog to support the effort. Joe stuck me with SFSU’s Plan, in which SFSU “Envision(s) (the diversity of) Our Second Century” (at length). Clearly, I offended Joe in a previous life.

But I take the cards I’m dealt, and so, after reviewing SFSU’s vision, I present you with a list of the things you can’t do at SFSU (and the appropriate citations of their vision statement as to why), and three things that you apparently can do.

What You Can’t Do At SFSU

1. Tell your girlfriend that her dress makes her look fat.

Why? “”Behaviors which are intolerant, insensitive, or discriminatory are deemed unacceptable.” Not that I’d recommend trying that line anyway, of course. But I challenge any woman to tell me that such a comment is not “insensitive”.

2. Completely cover your office walls with life-sized portraits of Celine Dion.

Why? “The “Principles of Conduct for a Multicultural University” shall be reaffirmed. Every unit office shall display a permanent poster copy of the principles…” Not sure what a ‘unit office’ is, exactly, but I’m glad I don’t have one. I suppose you could make a small space for one and have Celine all around it though…

3. Start a film club devoted to the Austin Powers films for the sole reason that you think Dr. Evil is a strong role model for today’s youth.

Why? “Faculty, staff, and students who have an opportunity to plan or influence extracurricular activities should do so with a goal of increasing student learning about diversity, since extracurricular activities provide important opportunities for students to learn about individual and group differences. From films and speakers to clubs and student residence halls, extra-curricular activities should be viewed as resources for such learning. ” So if Dr. Evil doesn’t have something to say about multiculturalism, he’ll just have to “zip it!”

4. Tell your new dorm mate that you think she’s an idiot because she’s decided to worship the band Yes as gods, and thinks Jon Anderson speaks to her through a Holy Lava Lamp.

Why?“…religious, and other individual or group differences shall not be regarded as hindrances to success. Rather they shall be treated as positive opportunities for the enrichment of our educational resources and the quality of our campus life.” So don’t you go harshin’ her mellow while she’s communing with the ole’ lava lamp.

5. Form a “Generation Y and Pissed About It” club for 18-25 year olds to protest the fact that your generation didn’t get a cool moniker like “Baby Boomers,” “Flower Children”, or even “the Me Generation”.

Why? “The University shall develop a general harassment policy and procedures that will address all forms of harassment including, but not limited to, gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, disability, and age. ” So you can forget about telling that damned 35-year-old grad student who keeps showing up at your meetings and suggesting “Children of the Millennium” as the perfect name to shove off — he’s protected by the vision, baby.

But despair not! There’s still a few entertaining things that you can do at SFSU.

What You Can Do at SFSU

1. Band together with a few of your friends and scream at fellow students to “Get out or we will kill you

2. Put up posters around campus accusing an entire ethnic group of the murder and cannibalism of innocent infants.

3. Trap a group of your fellow students against a wall with a mob and chant for their deaths.

Anyway. My tongue is firmly in cheek, of course. But I think you get the point. If you’re going to have a code like this — and see my post below for my dim view of such codes — you must enforce it consistently and firmly. And as I mentioned earlier, it sure sounds to me like some of actions which occurred went beyond hate speech and straight into good old criminal offenses.

I reserve my final judgment on the administration of SFSU (and the local authorities) — I reserve it for now, but not for very long. Perhaps they will follow through with the positive (if tentative) steps they have taken so far. But they need to do so swiftly, for the damage is already being done. Leaving this kind of behavior go unpunished — selectively enforcing their code of behavior based on political biases — will eat away at the confidence of not just Jewish students at SFSU, but any thinking students at that fine institution that their college home is a place that is genuinely safe for them — not to mention genuinely safe for rational thought and debate.

In particular, I would call on the University to release the videotape taken of the event (surely I can’t be the first person to request this). It was of a public event in a public forum, so I suggest they not even bother with any attempts to claim “privacy of the students involved”. Let their student body, faculty, and the world see the facts as they happened — and then judge for themselves whether the University’s response is adequate and appropriate.

Let us all hope that my optimism is not misplaced.