Administration acted cowardly with Review censors

by Gonzalo Lira | 5/11/93 10:00pm

I've been following this whole melodrama of The Review censoring with a mixture of amusement and disgust. And this latest episode, this "forum" that was held at RipWoodSmith cluster to make everyone feel better -- puh-leez, what a joke.

What it really amounted to was that, all The Review issues will now be placed in one easy-to-swipe spot so that future censors will not have to tire themselves running around campus, and the administration has no moral courage.

Yep, that's what I said -- the administration, as led by President James O. Freedman and represented by Dean of Students Lee Pelton, has no moral courage whatsoever. Worse, they are hypocrites. On a key College issue, censorship, instead of facing it head-on, like men, they decided to side-step it, like the weenies they are. One can almost hear the ghost of Neville Chamberlain applauding at this little piece of appeasement.

With his pathetic little plea to avoid censorship, if at all possible, Pelton thinks he got out there and did the right thing. But the man didn't even organize the forum which, for all its faults, was a legitimate way to solve a problem. The administration completely avoided the responsibility it is charged with.

By saying, in his inimitably fuzzy way, that censoring was not a totally good thing (though it has its good points, seemed to be the implication), Pelton sent a message: It is okay to censor if the speech censored is not totally popular.

What kind of message is that? What moral values is such a stance imparting on the student body? What kind of signal is it sending about the kind of place Dartmouth is?

The precedent Pelton and Freedman have set is simple: Free speech, the traditional and almost always sole protector of the unpopular view, is game this particular hunting season. The administration, will do nothing to defend it.

But why should we expect differently? After all, they are just corporate administrators -- those professional administrators who get ahead not by leading, as Hopkins might have, but by laying low and staying out of the way of the bullets.

Actually it's quite funny, because these administrators are not even competently mediocre -- if they were just mediocre, they wouldn't even have bothered to have their names attached to the issue.

Instead of taking Amiri Barksdale '96 and Parkhursting him for the time he deserved, all he got was a forum? What is going on here? A censor who likely assaulted another student doesn't even get a letter of reprimand?

What would have happened if it had been The Review people censoring, say, DaGLO, or, more to the point, censoring the Black Praxis? It doesn't take a genius to figure that Freedman himself would have led a rally -- Rally Against Hate: The Sequel. He probably would have written a letter to The New York Times and made himself look morally high-and-mighty.

But since it's just The Review, which few on this campus like (ah, but few have reason to dislike, isn't it true?), Freedman figures that if he stays away from the issue, it won't smear him. He figures that, by not speaking out against Barksdale and his ilk, he can remain pristine.

He is wrong, and he should be an example to us all. Because, by not standing up for the morally worthy but politically dangerous cause, by not saying "This is censorship and it will not be tolerated on this campus," by letting his avowed enemy, The Review, be silenced by force rather than by debate, Freedman shows us what not to be.

For him and the administration, it seems increasingly clear, brute force censorship, not ideals, ideas or intellect, is what really counts.

And ironically, he proves The Review's point--he in fact is a slave to the campus factions, wanting to keep everyone happy and politically correct, never willing to stand up for what is right and decent.

If he had believed in what he says, he would have creamed these censors and told the Dartmouth community, "Though I despise these Review people, they have as much right as anyone to say what they will."