Students will never learn to act like grown-ups if the “grown-ups” act like fourth-graders. Unfortunately, Texas Christian University has apparently seized an opportunity to be the grown-up and mashed it into the pavement face-down.
A 19-year-old College Republican and YAFer produced some unsupportive tweets in recent months about the rioters in Baltimore, Islamic State, and Mexicans. Of the tweets quoted, the one that looks inexcusably disparaging is the one that refers to Mexicans as “beaners.” The others merely failed to regurgitate PC pieties about their subjects.
See what you think:
The charges stemmed from a half dozen tweets he had posted online referencing radical Islam along with a Facebook message about the Baltimore riots.
“These hoodrat criminals in Baltimore need to be shipped off and exiled to the sahara desert,” he wrote. “Maybe then they’ll realize how much we provide for them (welfare, college tuition, Obama phone’s, medicare, etc.”
In regards to Islam he wrote, “This is clearly not a religion of peace.”
He also used the word “beaner” a derogatory term to describe Mexicans.
The kid is right that the Baltimore rioters are criminals – as distinct from the many people in Baltimore, including protesters, who did not riot, loot, or destroy – although his characterization is not how I would talk about the problem (e.g., calling people “hoodrats” or proposing to ship them off to the Sahara Desert).
He’s entitled to his opinion about Islam, and he expressed it without name-calling.
If I were his mother, I’d tell him flat-out not to call people “beaners” or “hoodrats,” because it makes you a low-class jerk to do that and you corrupt what’s going on in your own mind and character.
If I were his teacher, I’d sit him down and guide him through thinking about the cheap lack of useful, responsible thought that goes with just labeling people, and making that your comment on passing events.
And if I were a university, and someone unconnected with the university complained to me about a student’s tweets – tweets containing no actionable threats or evidence of criminal intent – I’d thank the person for her input and make it clear she was never going to hear from me again, and it was no longer her problem. If she persisted, I would suggest that she block the student’s tweets on her account so she didn’t have to see them. That’s what rational, adult people do.
Depending on the severity or persistence of the pattern in the student’s tweets, I might call him in for a talking to, and perhaps give him a written warning about potential consequences to his future at the school if he didn’t alter his behavior.
What I would mainly do is take responsibility for why he was being told not to call people “beaners” and “hoodrats” (which is the only thing to properly address here). Instead of pretending that these stupidities rise to the level of a criminal offense, or that people are actually harmed by them, I would tell him it’s wrong, I don’t like it, and it won’t be tolerated at the university because I’m in charge.
I might also explain that, in terms of his standing at TCU, it’s not a free-speech issue, because TCU gets to set standards for students, and this is one aspect of that.
None of these sensible things seems to have occurred to TCU.
The university took swift action. Associate Dean of Students Glory Robinson ordered Harry to apologize for what he had written on his private social networking pages.
“Dean Robinson said I was going to need to write an apology letter and a letter stating what sort of punishment I thought I deserved,” Harry told me. “She told me not to use Freedom of Speech as a defense – or else I would be more severely punished.”
To make a long story short – Harry hired a lawyer and appealed. …
As expected – the university rejected his appeal and sent Harry a certified letter.
“The choices you made caused harm to other individuals,” the university wrote. “These types of comments are not acceptable at TCU and directly contradict our mission of being ‘ethical leaders and responsible citizens in a global community.’”
Horse manure. The school magnified the significance of these tweets beyond all rational calculation – and idiotically dared the student to appeal to freedom of speech as a defense. This is playground-lawyering, not institutional leadership.
Sure, the defensive PC reaction is compounded here by the defensive bureaucratic reaction. But the main thing that’s so discouraging is to see how little responsible, adult leadership there appears to be in the process. Ultimately, the stupidity of some of the student’s tweets is far outweighed by the wrongness of this kid’s future being determined by a university administration with so little perspective or judgment. As a moral offense – something to get worked up about – that one’s the biggie.
The whole process is as if Oliver Stone made a movie about what you just did, and the movie was shown to 9-year-olds who were then asked to vote on what should be done to you. Except it’s not a made-up scenario; it’s a realistic characterization of what, in principle, is happening.