Quiet the commentators: Ancient American Traditions

Posted by Brian Connor

This is truly a difficult time in the college's history. A pall has been cast over the campus and Saratoga. Members of the community are struggling to make sense of the incident, the grey area of which seems to be unending, that occurred at the end of last semester. I suspect that somewhere, in between the racist banter of local commentators and the pontificating rhetoric of administrators and faculty, the truth lies. And I believe the truth is that these students made a mistake, and not an irreparable one. The true culprits in this maddening media escapade, the true antagonists, are the sensationalist local media and the dogmatic college administration and faculty.

We have all been deeply offended by the insensitive vitriol spewing from the regional press. Carl Strock's reference to the event as "the revenge of the diversity gods" strikes deeply at everything we hold true, and demeans all of us, especially Strock himself. Many local commentators have used this case to reinforce and fuel their latent racism. But college administrators and faculty are using these misguided outbursts to fuel their own righteous indignation.

In response to this, all our leadership has offered is garbled liberal arts jargon. Where the administration's words could have guided and comforted us, we were given wordy statements about diversity.  Acting President Susan Kress wrote to the student body that, "Goal II of the College's Strategic Plan calls upon us to recognize the complexities of the multi-national, multi-racial, multi-cultural world we live in and "develop the intercultural skills necessary to affirm one another's humanity, no matter how different we might at first appear…" What are we to take away from this stock liberal arts response? How should this lofty rhetoric guide us as we attempt to make sense of this situation as it unfolds in real time downtown?

The conservative press is obfuscating the event with racially charged language, and our administration and faculty are merely deconstructing the symbolic underpinnings of the reports, and all the while the true issue, of whether or not these students will be offered the opportunity to redeem themselves, is ignored. The administration and college commentators are doing as much of a disservice to these students and our understanding of this event as the volatile press is. Danny Pforte —we need not be reminded of the fundamental tenets of our judicial system. Of course they are innocent until proven guilty. But a guilty plea is a pretty good indication that they're not entirely innocent. And what about this ‘counter-narrative' that Professor Grady-Willis asserts will emerge in court? Are we meant to believe that there is some sort of conspiracy in motion with the goal of discrediting an entire institution, multicultural philosophy and race?

I hope most of us can agree that this is not simply a racially motivated railroading by a community incapable of exacting proper justice. And it certainly is not, as some racist commentators have suggested, a case of Skidmore's chickens coming home to roost. It is simply four students who made a mistake. What is truly deplorable here is the town and the college's use of these students' mistakes as a platform to continue talking past one another, to continue to exacerbate an already inflammatory town-gown relationship. They have hijacked these students' slip-up to reprimand and admonish the other, to assert their own agendas.

I have no problem accepting these students back into our community—as long as they demonstrate commitment to our values. I believe they made a mistake, but I also believe that they have the conviction and character to make amends for this mistake. They should be given a chance to learn from this and redeem themselves in the community, an opportunity of which they are being deprived, as faculty, students and administrators blindly support them in the name of countering prejudiced injustice.

So how should we respond to all of this? I believe we know exactly where we stand. We need not be reminded that we live in a multicultural world. True Skiddies live and breath our multicultural, multiracial creed. Those that demonstrate a disregard for our community's values are dealt with appropriately by our administration (some of the time). And we certainly reject the close-mindedness and racism of local commentators. I don't think there is any talk we need to have. Let's appropriate punishment as necessary, quiet the commentary, and get back to living that liberal arts philosophy.

Brian Connor is a senior American studies major from Brooklyn who  spends his summer nights at Siro's.

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