Wednesday, June 4, 2014

That "for whatever reason" bothers me. For whatever reason whitewashes Birgeneau's role in the violent suppression of student speech. "For whatever reason" ignores that students spoke up against honoring Birgeneau for fear that doing so would itself stifle free expression. "For whatever reaso" claims that context isn't important. I disagree. Context is everything. So, out of frustration with that "for whatever reason," I would like to provide some.

see The Nation piece on Birgeneau and the Commencement Speech that wasn't:

Since When Does Free Speech Require Students to Stay Quiet?

"To say, ‘We urge you to do x, y and z' is not to make a demand. It's to ask forcefully that you do something," she told me later. "I am still frustrated by people's determination to misread that letter."


While sentiment on the letter was split, speakers—almost without exception—either came down against Birgeneau's invitation or took no position on it. Honorary degree committee member Sarah Willie-LeBreton remarked near the end of the forum on the obvious lack of consensus around Birgeneau's acceptability to the community, expressing a desire to "re-evaluate" his invitation. Weiss himself later wrote that he had acquired "a respect and empathy for a number of perspectives that I had not fully appreciated beforehand," and that the forum was for him "an illuminating and valuable conversation"—though one that "regrettably did not include Dr. Birgeneau."

...
Cal still suffering a loss comes up:
We all continue to carry psychic, and in some cases physical, scars from November 9, 2011."
...
In Bowen's telling, Birgeneau has more right to be angry with a letter than students do with violence.

Perhaps I should have expected as much from Bowen—who, at the very least, had the excuse of ignorance. He had not been privy to the countless conversations held at Haverford over the past few weeks, and could not fully appreciate the complexity of how the issue played out on campus. So I was doubly saddened when President Weiss took to the pages of the Inquirer two days later not to defend his students against the often erroneous and offensive narratives that had taken hold in the wake of Bowen's speech but to reinforce them.

...
But Weiss's editorial is most remarkable for what it leaves out. It makes no mention of the fact that student concerns about Robert Birgeneau were entirely based on Birgeneau's complicity in the violent suppression of free speech at his own university—nor, of course, does it bother to point out that Birgeneau characterizes words as violent but shrugs his shoulders at the very real violence committed against his own students and faculty. It leaves out this crucial bit of context in favor of bland platitudes and for whatever reasons.

But for whatever reason is false. Free speech does not suffer when someone walks away from receiving an honor he was not entitled to in the first place. Free speech suffers when those who speak up are shamed for doing so—or, for that matter, beaten.
read it in full here
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and Cal in this:
At the University of California, Berkeley, for instance, current complainants have worked with alumnae who were part of a Title IX filing against the school in 1979. That filing included allegations of sexual discrimination and harassment by professors. At the time, UC-Berkeley officials had dismissed complaints that a student was given low marks because she refused to have sex with a professor.

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