Nichol wrongly accused
November 6, 2007
Word on the street is that the thought police have taken over our College community.
p. With the advent of the new bias reporting system, there have been some intense reactions to the administration’s Orwellian approach to promoting diversity and protecting students from hate and bias.
p. While it doesn’t seem like most current students care much about this system (or, frankly, know that it exists), the anti-Gene Nichol movement appears to have adopted this issue as its latest outrage in the crusade against our president.
p. To be fair, I agree with the complaints launched against “bias reporting.” While the spirit behind this type of system may be genuine, the right to free speech is one that should very rarely (if ever) be impeded upon. The administration has no right to prevent individuals or groups from speaking their minds, even if what they say may be perceived as offensive. The right to free speech, as critics have pointed out, must be valued over protecting someone from offense.
p. The problem is, the complaints lodged against the College’s bias reporting system are completely irrelevant. Based on the recent Flat Hat advertisement and the group that sponsored it (FreeAmericasAlmaMater.org), you’d think the administration had waged war on all controversial viewpoints and aimed to erase the exchange of ideas from Williamsburg.
p. In truth, the bias reporting website states very explicitly that, “because the expression of an idea or point of view may be offensive or inflammatory to some, it is not necessarily a bias-related incident. William and Mary values freedom of expression and the open exchange of ideas and, in particular, the expression of controversial ideas and differing views that is a vital part of civil discourse.” Seems pretty reasonable.
p. Okay, so the school still wants to protect free speech in theory, but what about determining what is an act of “hate” or “bias” and what is not? Critics have implied that an individual could report bias and ruin someone’s reputation over petty, personal matters.
p. Again, the school’s website explains clearly that “the Reporting System does not create a new category of prohibited behavior or a new process for members of the College community to be sanctioned. Any report would be handled in accordance with existing staff, student and faculty policies and procedures.” So no new rules against “hate” or “bias” have been created, and no attempt to censor free speech seems to be propagated. It appears, then, that this horrifying “bias reporting system” is nothing more than a glorified suggestion box.
p. One might wonder, then, what’s the big deal? Well, it seems to me that the anti-Nichol movement on (and off) this campus has reached new heights of ferocity. I will be the first to say that they may be right — maybe Nichol hasn’t been a good president, and maybe we shouldn’t renew his contract. The problem is that absolutely no constructive discussion about him has been allowed to take place because those that oppose him are so rabid in their convictions. Linking Nichol to the “1984”-esque system to squash free speech is simply one more outlandish accusation in a yearlong history of anti-Nichol yelping.
p. Obviously, the Wren cross issue was Nichol’s decision, but I still maintain that it was blown out of proportion. And what about the removal of our feathers? The Sex Workers’ Art Show? And now the new anti-American, Constitution-hating “bias reporting” system? Let’s be honest, the attempts to link Nichol to anything remotely negative are getting ridiculous.
p. There are those affiliated with the College who, at this point, will seek to vilify Nichol in any way possible. It seems that they are so entrenched in their desire to oust him that they can’t see how their extremist reactions and twisting of reality only serve to undermine the very cause for which they fight for.
p. To put it bluntly, I don’t know whether I think Nichol’s contract should be renewed or, in fact, whether the bias reporting system is a good idea or not, but I do know that the outlandish, desperate nature of the attacks coming from the anti-Nichol movement only make me question their validity.
p. __Devan Barber is a senior at the College.__