Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Crass Frat Banners At ODU, And Defining "Harassment" Downward

  The banners were crass, gross, and stupid. But I don't see how they constitute harassment...and they have nothing to do with sexual assault. "Baby girl" here refers to female persons of the age of consent. It's slang, as we know. So only a sophist would try to work that angle. The only people who might be targets of harassment here are parents, I suppose. I mean, the import of the signs is pretty close to:  Bring us your daughters! We're a bunch of loathsome douchebags with money, so we'll be screwing them soon enough anyway...  And, granted, I expect if I were a father dropping off his daughter at ODU, I might be tempted to go slap a punk upside the head... But none of that has anything to do with harassment or assault. Well...except for that part about slapping them upside the head...
   Well anyway. Gross, stupid, lecherous, classless, creepy, and just downright nauseating...but, to the extent that the message is directed at college girls at all, it's an invitation not a threat. It will put off some girls and attract others. The kinds of women it will put off aren't the kind that the frat wants at their parties anyway. Anybody want to take place any bets about whether a frat that hangs such banners will have any trouble attracting women to their parties? I mean...if they're not suspended? Guys who would hang such a sign are probably douchebags of a rather high order. Such guys abound. Some girls don't like such guys. Some girls do. If being an arrogant douchebag actually did revolt all women, I expect evolution would have selected against it by now. But the facts are: many dudes are douchebags, and many girls are attracted to that. It's gross, but it's not illegal. These banners are, basically, the mating call of the douchebag. And it will work a fair bit of the time. If it drove women away, they probably wouldn't have hung it up in the first place.
   So anyway. We can lament these facts...humans are gross in a bunch of ways. But we can't pretend that this is harassment, nor that it in any way expresses any kind of pro-rape message. Guys of this kind may very well be more likely to harass and commit sexual assaults--but that's a different matter entirely.
   This is a pretty typical kind of case these days. Instead of trying to stop actual sexual assaults and actual acts of harassment, the alliance of feminists, far leftists and panicky college administrators goes after something else entirely, pretending that they're doing the other thing. This is bad in virtue of being false and delusional, in virtue of promoting sexual puritanism, in virtue of stifling free expression, and in virtue of just being damn stupid.
   So I guess I'm on the side of the douchebags in this one.


Blogger Pete Mack said...

Most of theme claims were that the banners were offensive. No kidding. Sexual harassment came up as a reason for suspension. Insulting the parents if matriculating students isn't something a University can afford to do, so the suspension should have been for gross violation of professionalism by a university-affiliated institution. That is enough to break association. Harassment was a knee jerk explanation, but the response itself is legit. Note that freedom of expression on campus applies to individuals; not to organizations.

6:52 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

You could be right about the legitimacy of the suspension...that's kinda on the business-y side of the institution...I don't know what the rules are like there. Is that a common kind of rule/policy to have?

I'm concerned about yet another false accusation of sexual harassment, and yet another bogus use of it to control expression and expand administration power.

Of course I absolutely agree that it's a shit-head thing to write on a big-ass sign on move-in day... No disagreement there... But ODU is a public school, and I have to say I'm concerned about First Amendment issues. If the whole frat can be punished, it sounds like *de facto* punishment of the individual to me...but I'm sure there must be a fairly straightforward, established legal precedent about this.

7:38 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

I remember when I was touring my undergraduate institution prior to acceptance and a douchebag par excellance and his friends were sitting on a hill which we, the touring group, walked past. He shouted at our group, "All your daughters will end up in my room!" My father immediately responded: "And if you look to your right, you'll see that even those of you with the lowest SAT scores have hope for being accepted." Laughs were had, and the chump was silent in response.

I mangled the quote, but the general principle bequeathed to me by my father has stuck with me on account of this and myriad other examples: public humiliation on account of their douchebaggery is how sane people respond to douchebags. Not with silly administrative proscriptions, lest we lose the ability to handle douchebags on our own.

Kind of a side point to other probably more important points you're making, but I thought I'd share nonetheless.

9:10 AM  
Anonymous cb said...

Is this administrative proscription "silly"? Isn't this exactly the type of behavior that can reasonably damage its reputation and that it is well within its interests (and rights) to restrict? Should colleges seriously rely on an ad-hoc army of witty dads to stroll around campus keeping these idiots in check?

I agree that it's quite a stretch to call this "sexual harassment" and would be disappointed (and surprised!) if anyone was expelled on that basis. But suspending the charter is 100% the right move -- nothing in the Constitution guarantees your frat gets a presence on campus if they're going to be assholes about it.

11:13 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Well, I consider the administrative proscription silly. The administration of a university should not, in my estimation, interfere with the statements of its fraternities or other student organizations to this degree. If universities don't want the kind of person likely to make these statements in their student populations, then we need to address that issue by no longer accepting anyone and everyone into what has effectively become American high school+ (or maybe high school part 2, or somesuch). Of course, in order to make that happen, we need to reduce the reflexive requirement for collegiate education among jobs which have no need for it...

But anyway, I don't think the administration should willingly accept dumbasses into the student population and then pretend shock at their behavior. Everyone knows fraternities are full of people like this. Everyone also knows that school administrations pretend at the uniform excellence of their student populations when no such uniformity of excellence exists. Coming down on those who most overtly throw this fact into the public arena in some official capacity will do little other than send their statements back into the light shadows in which such behavior is "hidden" from administrative observation.

My point was that, by refusing to intervene at an official level, perhaps the universities could actually try to foster the healthy capacity to respond effectively to this sort of crap in the rest of their student body. If that fraternity wants to make such assertions, seems to me the proper response ought to be a boycott of their gatherings by the sororities on campus, or somesuch. Let the students handle these issues through effective, organized, and civil action.

(Incidentally: if there were any even minor level of intelligent student organization among sororities, my guess is that they would rule over university populations like royalty to which the males would gladly bow down)

And the administration would do a hell of a lot better to take these incidents as opportunities to encourage that sort of behavior. We don't need an army of witty dads; we need an army of witty young adults which a collegiate environment should have no trouble producing.

The problem is: we're continuing to treat college-aged adults as though they remain children, and this sort of paternalistic behavior on behalf of university administrations is only serving to enfeeble our young adult population. I can't tell you how ridiculous the emails to the student body have gotten at my institution; it's growing ever more hand-holdy and "safety"-obsessed, with the administration seeming hell-bent on making it clear that they're here to play Big Brother and make sure no one gets any boo boos. If that means sending everyone to their rooms, they'll do it.

And that is probably the most dangerous problem here, if you ask me.

9:34 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I see your point, c, and am willing to believe that suspension is permissible or even optimal. I'm too ignorant of just bureaucratic stuff to have much of an opinion on that.

But I think we agree that this is *not* sexual harassment--not in any way. And that's what I'm most interested in. Expansive definitions of sexual harassment were a favorite tool of the paleo-PCs. And such things seem to be used by administrations (populated by aged paleo-PCs) to expand their power and maintain a nice, docile campus.
Or, well, there's one version of what's going on anyway.

10:07 AM  

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