Monday, November 15, 2004

Mean Republican and Others clash on SFSU campus

Here's a note from the University President Robert Corrigan that many outside of the SFSU community may not get.

It is a matter of public record given that he sent this Email to the whole campus. I am posting it here in its entirety becuase I doubt it is linked to a campus web location. However, the point is that even in the "liberal" neck of the woods, the divisiness of the election is completely evidenced by this email. Like I had said in the past, it will take a magician to unit this country.

Text below --

Dear Colleague:

As I have said in many settings, and remind us all now, San Francisco State University is committed to providing an environment for open discourse, for the free exchange of ideas, and for practicing the skills of democracy. And democracy, as we know, must be rooted in respect for the humanity of all -- including those whose ideas we find objectionable, even abhorrent.

It is hardly surprising to see the strong feelings that have gripped our nation play out on this politically-engaged campus in the aftermath of the Presidential election. However, last week's noisy and angry campus encounters between students of opposing political views have left me deeply disappointed with the behavior of some on both sides. Even though sensationalized reports of these events are false, some students did dishonor their cause -- and themselves -- by their verbal attacks and intensely hostile demeanor.

This is what actually occurred: On November 1, four members of the campus College Republicans staffing a table were approached by four young female students of Middle East descent (three of whom are U.S. citizens, by the way) who began to voice their intense anger about Bush policy and the war in Iraq. Tempers flared on both sides, but the only physical exchange occurred when a College Republican attempted to slap away the hand of a student leaning over the table and pointing at him. In response, she slapped his shoulder. Campus Public Safety intervened and interviewed the two students on the spot. When asked whether they wanted to press charges against each other, both declined. However, both have now been referred to the campus discipline office for possible violation of the student code of conduct.

Were ugly and unacceptable remarks exchanged? Yes, and campus discipline provides a mechanism for dealing with that behavior. But to label this encounter, largely between eight students, an anti-Semitic "intifada" and the work of a "mob" is seriously to distort reality.

Two days later, on November 3, students who were angered by a sensationalist Internet site's portrayal of the Monday event and others who were disappointed by the outcome of the Presidential election gathered near the Student Center. That day they disrupted scheduled events and some confronted an informational table set up by the College Republicans.This noisy but non-violent confrontation, which in no way was a mob action, grew into an impromptu anti-Bush rally of 150-200 students. Public Safety maintained a clear separation between the College Republican table and the crowd. We have found no evidence that the GUPS (General Union of Palestine Students) initiated either this or the Monday event. Rather, both were outbursts between students of strong and opposing opinions.

Taunts, attempts to incite each other to anger, and remarks drawing on the worst stereotypes and global fears violate the values of this campus. In many cases, they also violate the student code of conduct, as a number of students (from both sides of the argument), who have been referred for possible student discipline, have just learned. Further, exchanging charges of "racism" and anti-Semitism" with others because of their political affiliation rather than dealing with the substance of the political differences is a dishonest dead end. If vigorous discourse moves from heated to heinous, we will use existing campus policies to restore civility. On this campus, free speech does not mean free rein.

It is time to place greater emphasis on another of the key skills of democracy -- effecting change. To take a purely practical view, hurling charges and yelling is not the way to bring about political and social reform. Those who really care about issues need to work the political system, where the battles are fought and won.

I wonder whether those who seek to antagonize, to provoke, to vent their anger rather than wrestle with issues, realize what harm they do to free speech, to a fair and open society, and to the cause of justice for all peoples. Such behavior invites -- has already invited -- the kind of calls for interference in the life of this campus that would ultimately make it an inhospitable environment for all.

I believe strongly that in our terribly troubled world, each of us has an intense, personal responsibility to seek solutions, not exacerbate problems. I hope that at the next emotional gathering on campus -- and there will be more -- all of us will find that balance between passion and decency. Our future depends on it.

-- Robert A. Corrigan, president

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Write a letter instead?These students are merely following the example set by their government in general and in particular by the FCC, where a few people can and did make a difference.

November 15, 2004

A BUZZMACHINE EXCLUSIVE!The shocking truth about the FCC: Censorship by the tyranny of the few

With not much original reporting, I discovered that the latest big fine by the FCC against a TV network -- a record $1.2 million against Fox for its "sexually suggestive" Married by America -- was brought about by a mere three people who actually composed letters of complaint. Yes, just three people.

I filed a Freedom of Information Act request on Oct. 12 asking to see all of the 159 complaints the FCC cited in its complaint against Fox.

I just received the FCC's reply with a copy of all the complaints -- and a letter explaining that, well, there weren't 159 after all. William H. Davenport, chief of the FCC's Investigations and Hearings Divison, admits in his letter that because the complaints were sent to multiple individuals at the FCC, it turns out there actually were only 90 complaints. It gets better: The FCC confesses that they come from only 23 individuals.

It is shocking enough that what tens of millions of us are permitted to see by our government can be determined by 159 ... or 90 ... or 23.

But it gets even better: I examined the complaints and found that all but two of them were virtually identical. In other words, one person took the time to write a letter and 20 other people then photocopied or merely emailed it to the FCC many times. They all came from an automated complaint factory like the one I write about here. Only two letters were not the form letter.

So in the end, that means that a grand total of three citizens bothered to take the time to sit down and actually write a letter of complaint to the FCC. Millions of people watched the show. Three wrote letters of complaint.

And on the basis of that ...