Saturday, December 14, 2002

Reductio ad absurdum

Taking a break from grading papers this morning, I strolled across campus to visit with Professor Bunion, King of the Department of Humorous Studies. For your [circle the modifier that offends you least: holiday . . . seasonal . . . December] enjoyment, I�ve reproduced below a transcript of our taped conversation.

Q: Dr. Bunion, I�m concerned about what others apparently heard on the radio yesterday. College Republicans are apparently alleging that some of them were accosted and assaulted Wednesday in Atwood by members of our SCSU faculty and at least one member of our university�s administration while they were displaying an Israeli flag. If that�s true, wouldn�t such an occurrence be a violation of our institutional policy against discrimination and harassment?

A. Hmm. Let�s see, David. [The King shuffles through some papers.] I read here that we stand against biased and/or discriminatory actions taken against any individuals because of their �age, gender, race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, physical capability/dimensions, or sexual orientation.� Nope, I don�t find anything here about �political persuasion� . . . or �income level� either, for that matter.

Q. But what if attorneys for the College Republicans file suit against the SCSU, claiming that their plaintiffs were damaged by actions that went beyond even the level of discrimination and harassment . . . to that of assault and battery?

A. Oh, the answer then is simple, really. We need only look at this past year�s lessons to learn what must be done. The first objective of any SCSU Administration must be to SETTLE the issue out of court, no matter what the cost. The public must NEVER find out if there is any truth to the allegations.

Q. And couldn�t our administrators also rationalize that there must never be an admission that any TRUTH even exists?

A. Precisely so! After all, TRUTH is colored by the eye of the beholder, and we must embrace diversity in all its forms, including the existential right to seek and find TRUTH however we want. It�s truly a beautiful manifestation of any university�s policy that expands its multi-optical horizons.

Q. What about finding people guilty?

A. Are you not listening to me, David? Follow the logical sequitur: Our guiding principle must be that NO INDIVIDUAL, whether a plaintiff or a defendant must ever be found GUILTY of anything. Individual responsibility must be destroyed as a tenet, accountability must be diffused, guilt must be ascribed only unto groups. We will be truly liberated by embracing the concept of COLLECTIVE GUILT.

Q. Cool, I�m starting to get it. But wouldn�t the settlement be costly to students and the taxpayers of Minnesota?

A. Well, yes, you have a point there. But think of what we could accomplish with, say, another $1.5 million or so. Besides paying some hush money to those College Republicans and their attorneys, we could establish a new St. Cloud State University Center for Advanced Conservative Studies!

Q. Would the faculty go along with that idea? After all, no more than 5% of us are Republicans.

A. Don�t you see, David? The answer will be mandatory political sensitivity training for all faculty, staff, and administrators. We could first start by hiring an outside consulting firm to conduct a campus-wide �political-climate audit� study.

Q. What a great idea! I heard that now, down in Pascagoula, Mississippi, there will soon be established a Trent Lott, PhD & Associates consulting firm. Apparently they�re really good at not having to answer any questions about their qualifications, framing survey questions, selecting samples that they want, and writing any conclusions that the Administration wants them to write. But what if some professors don�t go along with this kind of indoctrination?

A. The answer to that is easy . . . G.O.P. ALLY TRIANGLES! Just cut up some white triangles, and ask professors to wear them and put them on their doors, thereby instantly creating �safe spaces.�

Q. Brilliant, Professor! My only remaining problem now is understanding how the SCSU Administration should handle the press.

A. What do you mean?

Q. Well, what if National Review or the Weekly Standard writes a scathing editorial, excoriating as a group all of us at St. Cloud State for being politically intolerant?

A. Aha! The answer is right here in this morning�s Minneapolis Star Tribune []. President Saigo needs only to follow the path that he has taken in the past. First, he must wait a week to let the waters calm. Then he will need to write a �self-congratulatory� piece that uses a first-person singular pronoun ten times.

Q. Let me see those words, please. [I reach for Professor Bunion�s newspaper.] Yes, here they are:
- I feel compelled to respond
- My administration and
- I strongly oppose
- I am excited about
- I am very proud
- I challenge you
- I am confident that SCSU will
- I look forward to reading
- I participated in a program
- I remind you

A. Yes, David, then he needs to employ first-person plural pronouns another ten times when congratulating himself and his new administrators. See here:
- our many substantive actions
- We have strongly and consistently spoken
- we are striving as an institution
- our diversity education and anti-discrimination initiatives
- we have exceeded that plan
- our track record of diversity initiatives
- We are working
- Our new leadership team
- We were well aware that a settlement could imply guilt
- our leadership role

Q. Beautiful! And he�ll never need to refer to any individual�s being responsible for any specific past action?

A. No. Look here�s how it�s done:
- SCSU participated in the recent settlement
- legal requirements prohibited SCSU from making its case publicly
- MnSCU and SCSU agreed to the settlement
- They are human places where mistakes are made

Q. What about the need to mention any positives about any of the students, staff, or faculty of St. Cloud State University?

A. Absolutely not important! See here . . . zero such references in this morning�s editorial reply. President Saigo must continue to learn well from his predecessors that the phrase �We�re all in this together,� means that no one is responsible, no one has more merit than anyone else, and that we�re all equal . . . in guilt as well as in pay!

Q. Fantastic, Professor Bunion! Our Faculty Senate of the IFO will love it! [I take my leave, preferring to laugh than to cry.]

�There is always something rather absurd about the past.� - Max Beerbohm, 1880, age 8.