Apparent Inability to 'Take a Joke' Was Result of a Joke Not Very Well Told

by First-Year Deans: Steve Cornish | 11/5/97 6:00am

To the Editor:

We, as members of the Dartmouth administration and faculty, are saddened by the fact that our community has again been diminished by the expression of hateful and hurtful language. Although we understand that articles entitled "Eskimo Pick Up Lines" and "Dartmouth Review Dictionary" in the recent edition of the Jack-O-Lantern were not intended to cause offense, these poorly executed attempts at satire remind us that sometimes good intentions are not sufficient. Satire is a form of criticism which often pushes the boundaries of good taste; yet in its successful forms it has the effect of generating discussion rather than silencing those who would disagree. An altogether reasonable reader of the "Dartmouth Review Dictionary" -- and not simply the hopelessly p.c., as some have suggested -- might well miss the flimsy effort to skewer the off-campus publication and instead understand the "definitions" as written.

On a campus that values the free and open exchange of ideas, we will inevitably be subject to degrading and insulting language from time to time. But that makes it all the more incumbent upon all of us to speak out when we feel that bigotry is being articulated, publicly or privately. When carelessly handled, satirized bigotry and bigotry often become indistinguishable. In truth, our community might well benefit from efforts to find humor in our often ponderous and accusatory discussions of race and ethnicity. But in this instance, our apparent inability to "take a joke" was the result of a joke not very well told.