Thursday, November 02, 2006

A mind so open, her brains fell out 

That's the only reaction I can come up with to the photos (noted by Hugh) of the student at Penn who came to a Halloween party as a splodeydope. (Yeah, yeah, I know it's not nice to call them that, but 'suicide bomber' is inaccurate because it ignores the killing of innocent lives -- it's not just a suicide.) President Amy Guttmann missed a teachable moment here in choosing to pose and yuk it up rather than instruct the student that some costumes are in such bad taste that they cost you social standing and maybe a job interview. This moreover is insulting to the people whom the dopes explode.

I agree with Hugh that the student should not be the object of scorn. Nor do I think there's a debate to be had here over academic freedom. Whether or not President Guttmann wants to argue that it's a matter of free speech, there is still a question of propiety. I disagree with Eugene Volokh who thinks Halloween parties are fine for dressing this way, to make fun of them. I find it interesting that right after that post comes one of a bathroom stall defaced with anti-Semitic slurs on the UCLA campus; that, he says, is a reminder "that this stuff is out there." Yes, and that's the point. We need to be reminded that evil walks the earth. But do you pose with it and celebrate it? What kind of values does a liberal education at Penn uphold, and what is Guttmann's commitment to them?

If I'm ever invited to a Guttmann party, I'll come as the punchline of this joke, to despair of Penn's loss of morality.