To The Watertower:,
I’m writing to share an interesting story with you about a piece of your paper that led to some interesting discussion.
A police officer knocked on my door this morning regarding something I had posted on my door. It was a comic strip of yours (the one in which a girl is talking to her grandmother, who leads her to conclude that because women give blowjobs, men should hold doors for them) which had been posted when it was published (sometime in the fall). The officer asked me to remove it, explaining to me that she personally had no issue, but that the UVM police get a lot of calls about things like that and it’s a pain to have to come all the way to the building to ask people to take it down. Since she was there on other business, she decided she’d stop to ask that I take it down right there and save her the trouble. I would have argued but I really wasn’t sure about the rules around such things, so I took it down.
Later today I approached to Brian Hooks, Residence Director of Trinity Campus (where I live) and explained the situation, hoping to get more clarity on the issue. He was extremely helpful and courteous. As most of us know, the hallways are considered “public space” and are therefore under the watchful eye of ResLife. You can’t post porn on your door same as you can’t put up Hitler posters in the lobby of Harris-Millis.
My main question in the whole issue was how something that The Watertower deemed appropriate to publish and put out in public spaces around UVM could possibly be disallowed in a University residence hall. Apparently, ResLife does not allow The Watertower to be distributed within residence halls for this very reason. They do not want to be responsible for material that could be deemed offensive to anyone. Since The Cynic has to be University-approved before it’s distributed, they’re able to distribute in the dorms.
I understand that UVM housing is a touchy issue, as it needs to be a place where people feel safe and accepted. I agree that these things are vital to the residence community, but I also think that it’s vital that these people are accepted for who they choose to be, not faceless, politically correct, machines. Sure, I’m offended by some of the things I see and hear in my hall (you’d have to be strange not to), but I’d rather stop someone and try to explain my point of view and then request that they stop rather than blindly silence them. As a straight, white, male of average height and weight, it’s obviously very hard for me to speak for any of the groups more marginalized by society. In my opinion, though, every inch of a University should be dedicated to the spread of knowledge through discussion, debate, and print.
While neither the officer involved (who was also very nice and professional) or Mr. Hooks forms this policy, I was disappointed at the small swipe at free expression at UVM. I understand not being allowed to say derogatory things about women on our whiteboards or throwing around racist slurs in the halls (which happens much more than anything offensive is posted on a door), but posting something that was deemed by The Watertower as publishable and – in my opinion – serves exactly the social purpose that a comic strip is supposed to serve, seems like it should be allowed. Cartoons are very often satire of the flaws of society and they call to the surface important issues that must be well-understood if this generation is to go on and do what the university hopes we will do: make change.
Class of 2012
Update: The Watertower got my letter and asked me to write an article on the issue for them. PDF is available here.
I’m in the middle of reading “The Secret History of the American Emire: The Truth About Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and How to Change the World.” Besides having the longest title of any book I’ve ever read, author John Perkins’ second book does not so far have the optimism the title would lead one to expect. So far, Perkins has discussed (and backed with extensive evidence) the “corporatocracy” and its extreme exploitation of developing nations. Giving specific examples, Perkins describes the role he played in continuing this cycle of exploitation and explains in great detail how such things happen. While it has many obvious overlaps with Perkins’ first book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, I expect the book will go on to talk about what individuals as well as governments can do to put and end to the exploitation that Perkins claims is happening all over the world.
It’s not a light read, and at points it’s all I can do not to roll my eyes at some of Perkins’ attempts at profound analogy, but for its content, I’d recommend this book to anyone, especially if you’re the type who still wears Nike and tells your friends “they don’t do sweatshops anymore.” Perkins and his friends in Asia beg to differ with you. Check this out; it won’t make you proud to be an American, but maybe it will tell you how to make an America to be proud of.
So on the eve of a historic inauguration, the only place that I would really like to be is Washington D.C. Being there in real life would be nice if not a little bit chaotic, but a second and almost as appealing option (at the moment) would be to be there in the digital wasteland that is Fallout 3. I purchased by glossy black Playstation 3 just after Christmas and between that and saving for a new screen on which to play my ridiculously high-definition games, I have had time to buy only one game for the thing. So tonight, less that twelve hours before the first black president of the U.S. is sworn in, I dream of gaming. How worldly of me.
While Fallout 3 looks awesome, I would also be up for the more difficult game of the real-life hustle and bustle to get as close a possible to our new president as he is sworn in. Crowds are expected at well over a million, and thousands of law enforcement and government officials have been called in to keep everyone safe. The sheer magnitude of the event is really what blows me away. The amount of people who are squeezing into the national mall and well beyond is just amazing to me.
With that, I’m off to dream of Washington D.C., post nuclear-fallout or not. Hopefully Obama can stimulate the economy and get me my new screen and Fallout 3 too.