On Exercising Free Speech

by John Strayer | 4/4/96 5:00am

So I read in yesterday's paper some freshman wants to suspend me from writing for The Dartmouth. As I looked closer at his column I realized he is satirizing the notion of speech codes. So is he holding my writing up as the kind of brilliance that speech codes might silence?

But then he puts me in the same category with Kenji Hosokawa '98; good writing must not be the criterion. So does this guy like me or hate me? Or does he just think my picture looks cute?

It is kind of like when a woman replies to your blitz asking her to coffee. You read the blitz over and over, trying to figure out if she wants you or wants you to go away.

The more I read Robert Lendvai's column ["Limit Free Speech," April 3] ethics.research, the more it looks like one of those blitzes -- there's just enough there to keep you guessing, but nothing conclusive. Women have good reason to write ambiguous blitzes, but it seems to me that a good columnist would want people to know where he stands.

Thankfully some people are completely unambiguous about their distaste for my writing. While my columns are generally received with universal and unmitigated praise, four years of columns has produced a steady trickle of blitzes from readers who think I am a ninny.

As these blitzes provide a unique insight into the massive intellect of the average Dartmouth student, I would like to share some of them with you.

Freshman year I wrote a column which suggested that students' ill feelings toward College President James Freedman were partially motivated by an inferiority complex with regard to Harvard. This prompted the pithy remark, "you are a traitor to Dartmouth ... please transfer to Harvard."

Here's a fun one. "Once again, John Strayer has gone off his rocker. ... This term, in his article 'How Do You Self-Identify?' ... he seems to have once again tried to drag down the Dartmouth community, this time in order to justify his own identity crisis."

Identity crisis? What are you talking about? I am quite comfortable with my identity as a lesbian black woman.

He goes on, "As Strayer would have it, though, I am either a frat boy or a choir boy, a DOC frisbee pothead or a basement-dwelling mysoginistic beer guzzler. Thank you, John, I am none of these."

Maybe not, but you are far better at using oversimplified stereotypical generalizations then I have ever been. The words "frat boy" have never appeared in my column, and I wish I had written a column about "DOC frisbee pothead[s]." They sound like interesting people.

But the column that really brought out Dartmouth's best and brightest was the one where I told the Class of 1995 to stop whining about Commencement being moved to Memorial Field to accommodate President Bill Clinton.

"I'm a little annoyed that The Dartmouth would print such trash. ... i'm sure you're getting bitchslapped ... by every 95 who read it. ...all in all, i think you showed absolutely no class in your choice to write and publish the article, and next year (if not sooner) i think you'll find yourself wishing you had never written it."

"Will you enjoy having YOUR commencement next year on Memorial Field, without Clinton as a speaker? The President's office wants to make this move permanent. Who'll be the one whining then?"

As a '96 who will be graduating on the Green in front of Baker Library I have one thing to say to these '95s, nanny nanny boo boo.

Sometimes the simple elegance and brilliant prose of an angry blitz can leave you breathless. Such is the case with the following, my all time favorite. The ellipses are the writer's in this case.

"While you may not be the best writer, at least your intellectual capacity to understand and analyze problems correctly is well below the Dartmouth norm ... You have utterly and completely failed to comprehend or touch on the actual contention that the seniors have ... the fact is is that you are not that insightful and you are limited in your grasp of things that most people of intelligence easily understand ... thanks for a ridiculous editorial, though ..."

You're welcome. I do what I can.

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